Extra crews battle pothole problem

February 21, 2008 3:04:04 PM PST
City crews are busy repairing gaping holes in the pavement left behind by this year's winter storms. The city of Chicago has increased the number of pothole crews to keep pace with winter. Transportation Department spokesman Brian Steele said roughly 30 seasonal workers normally called back in mid- to late-March for the start of the spring construction season were summoned early last week.

During the week, 27 five-person crews are dispatched to city streets left weathered and beaten by winter's extremely difficult freeze-thaw cycle.

"Yesterday we did 731. It's a process but we're getting the job done," said Rick Halagiera, pothole repair crew.

From Dec. 1 through Feb. 15, city crews filled more than 60,000 potholes. That's up from 36,000 during the same period last year.

"A year ago today, we were probably sitting in the 311 system with probably 150 to 200 potholes. Today we're sitting at somewhere around 8,000. So we have 10-fold the numbers we had a year ago," said Commissioner Thomas Byrne, Chicago Department of Transportation.

Chicago's transportation department is using a customer-driven, computer mapping system to track potholes on more than 3,800 miles of city streets. Those potholes are reported to 311 and then crews go to the worst first. It's often a daunting and frustrating task.

"As a result of the salt trucks, they were moving material. As a result of the water, the material just comes out. So it's a little redundant. Slowly, slowly everything is picking up. The weather is -- if weather permits, we'll get it done," said Khalil Abdul-Lateef, pothole repair crew.

As the city tries to control the problem, a lot of motorists, like Will Jackson, know just how dangerous and damaging potholes can be.

"If you're driving past like 25, 30 miles an hour, you hit a pothole, there is a possibility that you're going to mess up your suspension. That's what's wrong with my car right now," said Will Jackson, motorist.

The snow we have had so far and the cycles of thawing and freezing are to blame for all the potholes. The road craters are formed when water gets into cracks in the pavement. When it freezes, the cracks expand, leaving behind craters.

Now that the latest round of arctic air has left the Chicago area, more pot holes are expected as temperatures warm up. If you do see a pothole, call 311 to report it.


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