Potholes popping up on city streets

January 3, 2011 3:44:43 PM PST
From flat tires to bent wheel rims, many drivers say they didn't see the pothole they hit until it was too late.

"This is where the rim got damaged. They can't repair it," one motorist said. The motorist drove up to Lucas Tires on Western Avenue on Monday morning in search of a new tire. He, like many others the shop has helped over the last several days, hit a pothole, damaging his vehicle. The tire shop's owner said he's seen a 40 percent increase in business since the last snowstorm.

"We actually opened over the weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which is unusual, because of the weather," said Lucas Tires owner Rich Lucas. "We couldn't get out all the cars that we had in because of the damage on the streets and everything."

The Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) says they have not seen an increase in the number of potholes or complaint calls over the last two weeks. However, with the freeze and thaw that happened over the weekend, they say it is not surprising that new ones are popping up.

"Even though we're not seeing an increase, we have crews out there seven days a week. That's really where 311 comes in. Anyone who sees a pothole we encourage them to call 311. They use those calls to develop maps of pothole locations and that helps more efficiently schedule the repairs," said CDOT spokesman Brian Steele.

Lake Shore Drive is one spot CDOT says it sends crews out to a couple of times a week. Elsewhere on Monday, there were not generalized problems, but the trouble areas that do exist are bad. The ramp from Lake Shore Drive to Upper Wacker and the bridge at Western and Belmont are two places with severe car-busting potholes.

"I just hit one. Grr. I just fixed my tires too," said driver A.J. Wester.

"I've actually been in an accident before because of that. I wish they would do something about it," said driver Chris Lee.

While potholes are a natural byproduct of winter, Rich Lucas says it's not just the city's fault. The low profile of most tires used today is also to blame for the number of blowouts.

"Air pressure is the most important thing you can do in the winter. Overinflate your tires by a couple of pounds, because you lose air, and that's not the city -- tires are too low."