The Life and Death of the Super Hole

February 7, 2008 6:27:48 PM PST
The freeze-thaw cycle in Chicago has produced a lot of potholes this season.There was no confidential source for this story. ABC7's Chuck Goudie himself found out about the super hole two weeks ago on his way to work, when his front, left tire dropped into the deep rut. And it just kept growing. Every day, cars with flat tires could be seen pulled over just beyond the crater.

When it comes to Chicago potholes, hubcaps keep the score, and there were plenty of wheel covers to tally around the super hole that the I-Team watched for two weeks. It wasn't hidden away on some remote roadway. It was right on the ramp off of Congress Pkwy. leading to Wacker Drive, where thousands of vehicles enter downtown every day.

"I didn't see it. I didn't have any sense I was going to run into it. It just snuck up on me and hit me," said Jonathan Lavin, super hole victim.

The Skokie resident was on his way to a business meeting this week when the pothole popped both of his left side tires, costing him nearly $500 to replace.

"This time I just simply was ambushed," Lavin said.

We found numerous cars that had been "ambushed" by the super hole and owners left to deal with flattened tires.

"Actually, we w(ere) driving, and I hear noise like, "boom," and that's it," said Wojcech Karatowski, super hole victim.

By the time the building contractor hit the pothole, it had become a wide, deep basin, and it cost nearly $300 for a pair of tires.

"It's really dangerous because that hole, it's not like this, that hole is going like a mountain," said Karatowski. "That tire is broken on the side, both of them."

The worst part is that the super hole is one of many along Chicago's 3,800 miles of roads.

"We are right about at what is traditionally peak pothole season - February, March into April," said Brian Steele/Chicago Dept. of Transportation. "Usually when you see a lot of significant freeze-thaw cycles is when you see the number of potholes jump. We've seen many freeze-thaw cycles over the past couple days."

The pothole the I-Team watched is the gateway to the Loop for thousands Chicago's most seasoned drivers. In a two week period, you would think that some motorist-or a city official would have been jarred into asking that it be fixed.

"On average, we can get to a pothole in anywhere from three to five days typically," said Steele. "However, when we see numbers like we've seen over past few days, that number does increase. That's why we really do encourage people to call 311."

"I wanted to make sure 311 knew about it, and I said I just hit this pothole. And he said 'Oh, that same pothole,' is what he said to me. He knew that there was a pothole in that Lower Wacker area," said Lavin.

"Each morning at 6:30 in the morning, we call up a computerized map of all the 311 pothole locations," said Steele. "We use those maps to find where the concentrations are and most effectively schedule our crews so they can repair as many potholes as possible."

But this pothole must've fallen through the cracks. So on Monday, Goudie dialed 311.

This is a really big pothole, right on the entrance to Lower Wacke. Lots of cars have gotten flat tires," he told the operator.

Just a few hours after his anonymous call to the city, a Chicago transportation department crew showed up with a truckload of cold patch, spelling the death of the super hole.

A city transportation department official said that a patching crew just happened to be driving by on a routine run and was not there responding to complaints.

The department said city found no record of any calls to 311 about the super hole.

Filing a claim, reporting a pothole

Claims: If your vehicle is damaged due to a pothole, you can file a reimbursement claim with the city. To file a claim, go to the Chicago City Clerk's website. Fill out and mail in a Damage to Vehicle Claim Form. Any evidence that can be included with the claim is helpful. The clerk will send the claim to City Council who passes it to the Committee on Finance. They investigate the claim by contacting CDOT for confirmation of the hole then make calls for a couple estimates of damage. The claim is then either denied or paid out. If paid, the claimant will receive half of the estimate of damages because the driver must take partial responsibility for hitting the pothole. Claimants should receive a denial or their check between 4 and 6 months after submitting their claim.

You can file a claim with the City of Chicago if your car has been damaged by a pothole on a Chicago road. To fill out a claim form visit
To submit a problem about a state road, visit
Click here to email pothole information to the Public Works Department in Oak Park.

You can also let ABC7 know about a problem pothole by viisiting Operation Pothole.