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City, suburbs prepare for Willie Wilson’s $1 million gas giveaway amid worries about lines and gridlock

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CHICAGO (CBS) — On Thursday morning, a polarizing event is set to commence – the giveaway of $1 million in gas.

Some are thrilled with the generous gesture. But as CBS 2’s Tara Molina reported, others fear a repeat of what happened with a smaller gas giveaway just last week – long lines, chaos, and gridlock.

Businessman and philanthropist Dr. Willie Wilson is conducting the giveaway. Each driver who comes to 46 participating gas stations in the city and suburbs will receive $50 worth of free gasoline until $1 million worth has been dispensed.

Molina talked with Wilson on Wednesday, and also reached out to all the municipalities involved.

A total of 19 of the 46 participating gas stations are within the city of Chicago. The others are spread throughout the suburbs – in areas where Wilson said he heard from people interested in a giveaway.

But some communities and gas station owners have already gone on record saying they are not interested.

At the last gas giveaway in Chicago on Thursday, March 17 – at which Wilson gave $200,000 worth of gas away – drivers to whom we talked said the lines were all worth it.

But this time, the suburbs are asking questions. Officials in southwest suburban Alsip announced Tuesday that they were bowing out.

Also off the list is the ownership group Thornton’s, and a Citgo station in the Bridgeport neighborhood. They backed out of the event over traffic concerns and manpower costs.

“I feel stressed,” Alsip police Chief Jay Miller told CBS 2’s Tim McNicholas Tuesday. “It’s going to affect residents who just want to grab some groceries, impact residents who are taking their kids to school. So there’s a lot of issues that are going to affect our community on Thursday.”

Chief Miller said it would cost Alsip about $10,000 in overtime to direct traffic. He suggested gas cards instead of mass giveaways to avoid the issue.

Wilsons said he feels gift cards or other giveaway methods could result in fraud, and he will spend his own money as he sees fit.

“Don’t nobody tell me how to spend my money,” Wilson said. “You do gas cards, people come up with counterfeit gas cards, and it doesn’t work right. This way, I know the people is actually getting the gas.”

Wilson will not replace any of the locations that have quit the giveaway, so as to prevent confusion.

But they say their team is ready, with 200 people set to help pump gas at the remaining 46 locations starting at 7 a.m. Thursday.

In Chicago, city officials said they don’t know how much the 19 giveaway locations, managed by Chicago Police and city traffic control, will end up costing taxpayers. But they’re prepared.

The Chicago Office of Emergency Management and Communications issued the following guidelines:

  • There will be one entry and exit point at each station with 12-15 volunteers from Dr. Wilson’s staff along with a site leader providing direction.  
  • Locations will close normal operations at 6:30 a.m. to prepare for the event.  
  • Motorists are advised to line up no more than 30 minutes prior to the event start at 7 a.m. Instructions for lining up will be provided at each site.  
  • Each vehicle will receive a sticker indicating position in line. Note: vehicles will not be allowed to line-up overnight, and all must have a sticker in order to receive the free gas.  
  • Each station will be allotted $50 per car and can expect up to 400 cars per location. Estimated time is 4-5 hours. Note: this could differ per station. 
  • 2 Traffic Control Aides (TCAs) will be on hand at each location to assist with flow and impacts from heavy traffic. 
  • CPD will also assist TCAs at each location within the district it’s located to ensure public safety and the free flow of traffic. 
  • No gas cans or other containers allowed. 

The city, again, has made it clear that no one can line up early. But it’s not clear who is going to prevent that from happening, or how that’s going to look on city streets ahead of that 7 a.m. start.

Meanwhile, Wilson said he is already looking at a third giveaway, with gas prices rising.

The following gas stations are participating in the giveaway:

  1. BP – 11040 S. Pulaski Rd., Oak Lawn
  2. Shell, 5230 S. Western Av., Chicago
  3. BP, 342 E. 35th St., Chicago
  4. Super Save, 48 E. Garfield Blvd., Chicago
  5. Shell, 6434 W. Archer Av., Chicago
  6. Citgo, 6700 S Cottage Grove Av, Chicago
  7. BP, 7600 S. South Chicago Av., Chicago
  8. Clark, 1201 W. 87th St, Chicago
  9. Gulf, 9901 S. Halsted St., Chicago
  10. Super Save, 9452 S. Cottage Grove Av., Chicago
  11. Super Save, 11100 S. State St., Chicago
  12. BP, 4401 W. 55th St, Chicago, IL
  13. Amoco, 7210 N. Clark St., Chicago
  14. Citgo, 1345 N. Pulaski Rd, Chicago
  15. Marathon, 340 S Sacramento Blvd, Chicago
  16. Amoco, 4401 W. Roosevelt Rd, Chicago
  17. Citgo, 5103 W. Madison St., Chicago
  18. Citgo, 5150 W. Chicago Av., Chicago
  19. BP, 3955 N. Western Av., Chicago
  20. Shell, 6129 W. North Av., Chicago
  21. Super Save, 101 W. Madison, Maywood
  22. Mobil, 1950 Green Bay Rd, Evanston
  23. Shell, 3901 S. Harlem Av., Stickney
  24. Falcon, 18280 S. Pulaski Rd., Country Club Hills
  25. BP, 17450 S. Kedzie Av., Hazel Crest
  26. Citgo, 13801 S. Halsted St., Riverdale
  27. Exxon Mobil, 1421 E Sibley Blvd, Dolton
  28. BP, 15857 S. Halsted St., Harvey
  29. GoLo, 4005 W. 135th, Robbins
  30. Citgo, 11901 S. Marshfield Av., Calumet Park
  31. Shell, 385 Sauk Trail, Park Forest
  32. Falcon, 8702 S. Roberts Rd., Hickory Hills
  33. Citgo, 15221 S. Halsted St., Phoenix
  34. BP, 11201 W. Cermak Rd., Westchester
  35. Phillips, 9340 Irving Park Rd., Schiller Park
  36. Amoco, 1700 N. Mannheim, Stone Park
  37. BP, 5201 W. Cermak Rd, Cicero
  38. Mobil, 1101 N. LaGrange Rd., LaGrange Park
  39. Mobil, 9401 W. Higgins, Rosemont
  40. BP, 5548 W. 159th, Oak Forest
  41. BP, 17th & Bataan, Broadview
  42. BP, 1309 N. 25th, Melrose Park
  43. Shell, 4555 N. Nagle, Harwood Heights
  44. Shell, 2474 Thatcher, River Grove
  45. Shell, 2401 Lincoln Hwy, Olympia Fields
  46. BP, 1601 Oak Park, Berwyn

Molina reached out to all the suburban communities with participating gas stations. The municipalities released the following statements or news releases:

Broadview

“The free gasoline distribution event in Broadview on Thursday, organized by Dr. Willie Wilson, will proceed as planned. The Broadview Police Department has traffic control contingency plans already in place that can flexibly and easily manage traffic surge episodes. We foresee no appreciable additional cost to our department budget in response to any potential, temporary traffic congestion in Broadview.” –Police Chief Thomas Mills

Calumet Park

Q: How many officers/personnel will be detailed to the gas station to prevent issues?

A: I don’t have our total manpower for the event, however, there will be adequate coverage to ensure a safe event

Q: What is the estimated manpower cost?

A: Won’t speculate on the cost but so far, I don’t see that it would be much more than any other manpower intensive event we may host. 

Q: How does the village plan to manage traffic around the participating station?

A: We have a plan in place to manage traffic and we have other law enforcement partners that are assisting as well

Q: Has the village communicated plans with owners/managers of the station in advance?

A: Yes, the Village has been in constant communication with the gas station owner and representatives from Dr. Wilson’s team.

Q: What should those planning to attend know? Can they be ticketed for violating whatever traffic protocol is in place? 

A: Those planning to attend should know that no one will be allowed to line up prior to 5 a.m.  If they line up early, they will be asked to leave until 5 a.m.

The gas station is located on the southwest corner of 119th St. (11900. S. Marshfield).  Entrance to the line will begin at 119th and Page St.  where there will be signs and personnel directing the flow of traffic.  Vehicles will only be allowed to enter going east on to Page St. from 119th St.  Once vehicles are lined up, personnel will pass out numbers which will hold their place in line.  Any vehicle that fails to line up properly will not receive a number.  And those who violate protocol will be asked to leave.  

Cicero

On March 24, 2022, Dr. Willie Wilson is hosting a free gas give away to the first 400 people that show up at the BP Amoco located at 5201 W. Cermak Rd. in Cicero, Illinois.  In response to this event, the Cicero Police Department will implement a traffic plan to help reduce the impact on our community and ensure the safety of everyone in the area.

If you plan on attending this event, please be advised of the following information:

-Line up begins no earlier than 6:00am. You will be turned away if you arrive early.  

– Event begins at 7:00am and ends at 10:30am, or when 400 people have been served, whichever is sooner.

-Numbered tickets will be handed out at this location. Additional vehicles will be turned away.

-The only entrance to the event will be located on Cermak Rd at Lombard Ave.

The entire South lane of Cermak Rd from Lombard Ave to Laramie Ave will be cordoned off by steel barricades that will lead directly into the gas station.  The pumps will be pre-programmed for $50 and persons will be on-site to pump the gas for each vehicle, therefore, no one will have to exit their vehicle.

After receiving the gas, all vehicle will exit the gas station and will be required to turn Southbound onto Laramie Ave.  

The following closures will take effect beginning Thursday, March, 24th, 2022 at 12:00 A.M. so there will be no access to south side of Cermak Rd. from the following locations:

-53rd Ave between 22nd Place and Cermak Rd

-55th Ave between 22nd Place and Cermak Rd

-57th Ave between 22nd Place and Cermak Rd

-58th Ct between 22nd Place and Cermak Rd

-59th Ave between 22nd Place and Cermak Rd

-59th Ct between 22nd Place and Cermak Rd

-60th Ct at Cermak Rd

-61st Ave at Cermak Rd

-61st Ct. at Cermak Rd

-Lombard Ave. at Cermak Rd.

The following thoroughfares will remain open for normal traffic, however,  expect major delays given the anticipated response to the event:

-Laramie Ave.

-54th Ave

-Central Ave

-58th Ave

-Austin Blvd

There will be no parking on the South side of Cermak Rd. from Laramie Ave to Lombard Ave from 12:00 AM to 12PM.  Any vehicles parked in this area will be subject to being ticketed and towed.

Signs will be posted and Police Officers will be on scene for traffic control.

Country Club Hills

“Discussions have occurred between the City, PD, station owner and members of Dr. Wilson’s group. 

“Plans have been created to address any potential traffic issues and to assist with traffic flow. As with any event the plans can be adjusted as the situation dictates.”

Evanston

The City of Evanston and the Evanston Police Department are notifying Evanston community members of anticipated heavy traffic in the area of Green Bay Road and Foster Street throughout the morning on Thursday, March 24 due to a gas giveaway event at the Mobil station at 1950 Green Bay Rd. 

Drivers who are not planning to participate in the event are encouraged to avoid the area and use alternate routes, if possible. The event begins at 7 a.m. and will last until funding is exhausted. 

To facilitate traffic flow, the Evanston Police Department will implement a number of traffic control measures in the area, including:

Information for Drivers

evanstongasgiveawaytrafficmap.png

City of Evanston


  • Drivers will only be able to enter the Mobil station from southbound Green Bay Road. All vehicles participating in the event must enter the staging area from southbound Green Bay Road at Simpson Street or eastbound Simpson Street at Green Bay Road.
  • Drivers will not be able to enter the Mobil station from northbound Green Bay Road, northbound Asbury Avenue, or eastbound Foster Street. No left turns will be permitted from northbound Green Bay Road into the Mobil Station or onto southbound Asbury Avenue, westbound Foster Street, or westbound Simpson Street.
  • Asbury Avenue will be closed to northbound traffic at Emerson Street, and Foster Street will be closed to eastbound traffic at the alley east of Wesley Avenue.

Two-way traffic on Green Bay Road will be maintained at all times. The median will be used to accommodate southbound Green Bay Road drivers who are not participating in the event.

Evanston Police officers will be on hand throughout the event to assist drivers. Community members are encouraged to follow the Evanston Police Department Twitter, @EvanstonPD, for updates on the day of the event.

For more information, please call/text 847-448-4311 or simply dial 311 in Evanston.

Melrose Park

“In Melrose Park, participants are asked to line up on Thomas Street going west bound to enter the BP. They will exit onto 25th Avenue. There will be traffic control. No gas cans will be allowed, only vehicles can be filled up.”

Oak Forest

oak-forest-bp-gas-giveaway-map.png

City of Oak Forest


The Oak Forest Police Department is warning residents and commuters of anticipated traffic congestion on Thursday, March 24 from 7 to 10 a.m. near the BP gas station at the corner of 159th Street and Central Avenue due to the gas giveaway event sponsored by Chicago businessman Willie Wilson. The first 400 vehicles at the gas station will receive $50 in gas.

“Our personnel will make every effort to keep traffic flowing,” said Police Chief Jason Reid. “In light of previous giveaways, we are asking those who are not participating in the event to find alternate routes of travel so as to avoid the area.”

Per the police department, participants in the gas giveaway cannot line up before 7 a.m. There will be one point of entry/exit to the gas station on 159th Street just east of Central Avenue. The entrance/exit is only accessible to westbound traffic. Once drivers fill up, vehicles must head west out of the gas station. The curb lane of 159th Street (westbound) will be used to accommodate those waiting to receive their fuel.

Volunteers from Wilson’s organization will be pumping gas so drivers will not be allowed to exit their vehicles. Also, the BP gas station’s convenience store will be closed to customers during the giveaway. Participants are asked to respect the surrounding businesses and their parking lots.

Rosemont

Q: How many officers/personnel will be detailed to the gas station to prevent issues? 

A: 20 officers will specifically be designated throughout the morning for this event

Q: What is the estimated manpower cost?

A: $2500

Q: How does the village plan to manage traffic around the participating station? 

A: We will utilize the extra officers to funnel cars in and out of the gas station. Vehicles will only be allowed to enter via the Higgins Road entrance. Cars will be directed to line up on Higgins Road going west. Once they finish at the gas station, they will exit via the only exit onto River Road. Only vehicles properly in line will be allowed to get into the gas station. Drivers are advised to follow directions of the on-site officers. 

Q: Has the village communicated plans with owners/managers of the station in advance? 

A: Yes, we have spoken with the gas station who are aware of the plan. 

Q: What should those planning to attend know? Can they be ticketed for violating whatever traffic protocol is in place? 

A: Anyone attending the event should be patient throughout the morning as there will be high traffic in the area. Please look for our officers and follow their directions lining up and entering/exiting the gas station. Safety is always our number one concern. So please continue to follow all traffic laws and we work to provide a smooth event for all. If you are traveling in the morning and can avoid the area, we advise to choose an alternate route. We anticipate the event to be over during the mid to late morning hours. 

Schiller Park

Q: How many officers/personnel will be detailed to the gas station to prevent issues? 

A: “The event organizers will be providing staff for the event. We will also have numerous personnel at the gas station, as well as along the predetermined route where people will be lining up for gas. There is no hard number at this time, but we will have enough personnel on hand to deal with any issues that arise.”

Q: What is the estimated manpower cost? 

A: We know there will be some added operational costs, but we have not estimated them at this time. we are more concerned with traffic safety and the general well-being of the public.

Q: How does the village plan to manage traffic around the participating station?

A: We will be closing off streets and various driveways for local businesses. We will have the gas line going eastbound along the curb lane of Irving Park Road and then northbound on River Road. We will also have Officers providing traffic direction to drivers at various points along the route.

Q: Has the village communicated plans with owners/managers of the station in advance?

A: Yes, we have met with the gas station owner and reviewed the plan with them.

Q: What should those planning to attend know? Can they be ticketed for violating whatever traffic protocol is in place?

A: Those planning to attend should know that all rules of the road will apply during the event. We will allow people to wait in line along the curb lane along the event route. Drivers should not leave their vehicles unattended along the route as they risk being ticketed and/or towed. Aside from that, if people practice common road courtesy, things will go quite smooth.

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