LSD reopens after pavement buckles

July 6, 2010 (CHICAGO)

The southbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive were reopened just before 1 a.m., after CDOT crews completed repairs to a few sections of buckled pavement, according to a release from the City Department of Transportation.

"CDOT crews worked very hard most of Monday night to make the roadway ready for Tuesday morning's traffic," CDOT Commissioner Bobby L. Ware, who spent Monday night at the job site, said in the release. "Their efforts will make this morning's rush-hour commute go smoothly."

The buckling of the road, which occurred about 6 p.m. at 1900 South Lake Shore Drive Monday, was heat related, according to Ware.

"The roadway's designed with expansion joints which, as the name implies, allows the road sections to expand and contract with freezing and thawing. It's possible one of those joints, after 15 years, failed," said Brian Steele of the Chicago Dept. of Transportation.

Chicago Department of Transportation crews broke up the sections, ground out adjacent pavement and placed new asphalt on the southbound lanes, just south of 18th Street.

The buckling occurred in an area just north of McCormick Place, according to witness reports. There was buckling across two lanes closest to the median, then about 10 yards south there was buckling across the two outer southbound lanes.

The affected section of the drive was completely rebuilt back in the 1990s when the northbound lanes were moved away from the lake to the other side of Soldier Field, making room for the park that now surrounds the museum campus.

"That pavement constructed 15 years ago has seen 15 winters, 15 hot summers. That wear and tear will deteriorate any roadway," Steele said.

Though the buckling took place at 1900 South Lake Shore Drive, police closed the drive to traffic from Roosevelt Road.

A police officer on the scene said that by about 8 p.m. Monday the southernmost spot of buckling was about six inches lower than it had been at 6 p.m., the pavement apparently cooled by the falling temperatures. From 3 p.m. until at least 5 p.m., the temperature in Chicago was 90 degrees, according to the National Weather Service. At 6 p.m. the temperature had fallen less than one degree, to 89.1, but by 8 p.m. the temperature was down to 87.1 degrees.

Lake Shore Drive traffic had been brought to a standstill Monday night by the buckled pavement.

The incident undoubtedly caused some headaches for people who were on their way to a concert by Canadian rock band Rush at the Charter One Pavilion at Northerly Island Monday night. The show was scheduled to start at 7:30 p.m., according to the Live Nation website.

Three CTA bus routes that travel down Lake Shore Drive in that area -- the No. 6 Jackson Park Express, the No. 10 Museum of Science and Industry and the No. 14 Jeffery Express -- were rerouted in both directions, according to a CTA customer alert.

No one has been reported injured.

The situation on Lake Shore Drive was one of at least two incidents of buckled pavement in the Chicago area Monday evening. Illinois Department of Transportation crews were on the scene of a report of buckled pavement in Elmhurst, on Illinois Route 83 at I-290, about 9 p.m., according to an Elmhurst police dispatcher.

The dispatcher said the road had not been closed to traffic as of about 9 p.m. but IDOT crews were on the scene because of some buckled pavement.

Steele said the Lake Shore Drive buckling was caused by heat and that while uncommon, this type of phenomenon is not unheard of.

"A couple times a year when we have long stretches of high temperatures and intense sunlight, the pavement does buckle," said Steele. "Like any material, it will deteriorate, and heat can really exacerbate the issue."

The city, however, insists the underlying roadway is still in good shape.

"We have inspectors out there today, checking all areas of Lake Shore Drive to make sure there are no conditions that need to be addressed," said Steele.

City officials asks that anyone who needs to report buckling in a street should call the non-emergency number 311.

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.

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