The fleet beneath our feet
The Loop’s Streets and Sanitation office lies under New Eastside, with a fleet
that manages everything from street cleaning to snow sweeping
By B. David Zarley | Staff Writer
Part of the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation fleet hides below the New Eastside. The Loop Operations Office located at 351 E. Lower Randolp St., handles the central business district stretching roughly from 22nd Street to North Ave. and from Lake Michigan to the western boundary of Damen. During Cubs season, Loop Operations extends into Wrigleyville.
The office parking lot is stocked with cornflower blue garbage trucks, in both traditional style and split body, and white pickups outfitted with a six-yard garbage bin in the back, that can more easily navigate Loop traffic. There’s a street sweeper decked out in Cubs pinstripes hailing the 2016 Championship, a stake body truck, and a cab with a long flat bed—the workhorse that hauls Street and Sanitation department equipment.
The impressive display of civic muscle provides a window into the multi-faceted operations of the Department of Streets and Sanitation’s Loop Operations Office which according to its website, handles over one million service requests per year. Everything from garbage, graffiti and snow removal to hand sweeping and special event security is managed from beneath the feet of New Eastsiders.
“This is a very multi-purpose office, and it’s unique to the city,” said Cole Stallard, deputy commissioner of the Bureau of Street Operations. According to Stallard, cleaning graffiti, hand sweeping and garbage collection are about the only constants of the job. “Every day is a new day down here, due to the fact that there’s just so much going on in Chicago,” he said.
The office takes on the task of snow removal and preparations for the major haul begin in July, requiring a team of about 100. Other preparations include snow fencing of Lake Shore Dr., coordinating supervised manual labor through the Sheriff ’s Alternative Work Program, street sweeping and cleanup of refuse left by the homeless.
Loop Operations is almost always open and staffed; Monday through Friday the office is open 24 hours, while Saturday and Sunday it is open for 16 hours each day. “The only day that this office closes is Christmas Day,” Stallard said. “And we come back Christmas night.”
Part of what makes Loop Operations unique is its role in special events like the St. Patrick’s Day parade, the Chicago Marathon and the Cubs’ and Blackhawks’ title celebrations. In addition to cleaning up after these events, Loop Operations also helps toprovide security and crowd control. Their snow plows are sometimes used as crowd barriers.
According to Stallard, the long hours and ever-changing challenges are well worth it, as Loop Operations employees take pride in keeping the most forward face of the city clean and safe. “I’m fortunate to have down here people who really care,” Stallard said.