Roads repaved for IOC visit

March 19, 2009 4:21:09 PM PDT
Paving the streets that could lead Chicago to an Olympic pot of gold in 2016 is apparently a priority. Work has begun on resurfacing the roads in Washington Park -- the site of Chicago's Olympic stadium. But with hundreds of potholes in need of repair throughout the city, some residents wonder when the city will work on their streets.

Members of the International Olympic Committee will visit Chicago next month to judge the city as a host for the 2016 Games. One stop on their tour is Washington Park -- the location of the biggest proposed venue: The Olympic Stadium.

The city claims money for filling potholes, tree trimming and new landscaping in Washington Park isn't coming at the expense of other neighborhoods.

Rod Wilson is watching a flurry of activity in the park near his home.

"The last 2-3 days it's been almost around the clock work," said Rod Wilson, Washington Park neighborhood resident.

Thursday afternoon, it was Chicago Park District crews clearing dead limbs, along side new mulch beds, near a grove of recently planted trees. Thursday morning, Chicago Transportation Department workers put the finishing coat on a newly resurfaced stretch of road.

"If the IOC wasn't coming next week, this wouldn't be happening," said Wilson.

A team from the International Olympic Committee arrives in Chicago April 2. And just like the US Olympic Committee did in 2007, they will travel the city inspecting the sites of potential Olympic venues.

"These locations were among the first to be done because we wanted to finish them in advance of the IOC visit," said Brian Steele, Chicago Transportation Department spokesman.

City officials admit there is an Olympic spruce-up underway but say all of the projects taking place in Washington Park were previously planned and budgeted. The road work there was simply moved to the front of line.

"These streets would've been repaired regardless of the IOC visit," said Steele.

"Whenever we get visitors, there is a great effort to put on a good face. But typically the face we see from the city in this neighborhood on a regular basis is not that great," said Jay Travis, Kenwood-Oakland Community Association.

"It was really dangerous with big potholes," said Phyllis Robinson, Washington Park Neighborhood Resident.

Phyllis Robinson is among those who called 3-1-1 to report potholes near the park -- and says she's glad to see the street re-paved.

"If the Olympics is going to give us attention, give us money to fix our neighborhood, we're all for it," said Phyllis Robinson, Washington Park neighborhood resident.

One goal of the Olympics is to bring attention to traditionally underserved neighborhoods, and that's certainly happening in Washington Park.