Weather contributes to pothole problems

February 7, 2008 9:07:35 PM PST
As the snow gets removed from streets across the Chicago area, more and more potholes are being discovered and some are damaging cars. Most of the potholes are filled with water so drivers can not tell how deep they are, which is creating serious problems and delays for motorists around the city.

Want to know how bad that pothole is up ahead? All you need to do is look at the side of the road. On many streets there is a graveyard of car parts killed by those pesky potholes.

"It's a bit of a gauntlet out there, I think you inevitably hit one or two if you try to get anywhere," said Kirsten Sisk, motorist.

These days that "thud" sound is as good as gold for auto repair shops. Their floors are littered with the by-products of a brutal winter.

"If you continue to ride on your wheel, what happens is, you bend it causing further damage to the wheel," said Melanie Ahern, Cassidy Tire.

On the north end of Lake Shore Drive, potholes are popping up like chicken pox.

"We were just driving, hit a pothole, took out both of my right side tires," said Ryan Schile, driver of a small sports coupe.

Schile was several hours late to work Thursday. He was headed south on Lake Shore Drive near Belmont when he ran over a pothole.

Thursday morning, several cars had flat tires along Lake Shore Drive. Tow trucks quickly arrived and city crews were sent to the area to do some patch work. But as of 8:30 a.m., Schile and his friend - who are both air traffic controllers at Midway Airport - were still stranded.

"We have been here since about 6:30. Two tow trucks have come by, but they need a flatbed because both the tires are out," said Schile, who's looking at several hundred dollars' worth of tire damage..

As if the snow hasn't been bad enough lately, potholes are also slowing down motorists all over the Chicago area. In some cases, the potholes are causing serious damage to cars.

The wintry weather is the reason for so many potholes this time of year.

"Under these really tough winter conditions, pavement can only take so much. With all the precipitation and certainly with the heavy volumes of traffic, that adds up, deteriorates the pavement surface, and that's when you see potholes," said Brian Steele, Chicago Dept. of Transportation.

The city has detailed maps of all the reported potholes around the city. There are thousands of them. Eighteen crews have been deployed to patch them up. It will take awhile to get to all the potholes. Usually, when a crew shows up to fill one, they will find another dozen close by.

"On an average winter day, if we don't have a lot of precipitation and the temperatures are cooperative, our crews can fill 2,000 to 3,000 potholes a day. Just two days ago when we had mild weather, our crews filled more than 3,500 potholes throughout the city," said Steele.

There are 3,800 miles of roads throughout Chicago, so it's going to be a while before crews get to all of them.

Chicago Mayor Richard Daley addressed the problem Thursday on Lake Shore Drive.

"We have to rebuild North Lake Shore Drive. That's been on the road, we're trying to get the state to agree to that," he said.

A torn-up tire can cost you upwards of 80 dollars apiece. You can file a claim to recover half-the cost of repairs from the city. In 2005, there were 730 claims made, and 89 percent were paid. In 2006, the number of claims more than doubled with the city paying on 93 percent of claims. But the winter weather will be long gone by the time you see any money. Reimbursements take four to six months.