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City Deploys More Crews To Combat Pothole Season

By Quinn Ford | February 22, 2014 5:28pm
 City officials announced the department of transportation is bringing seasonal crews back about a month early to combat this year's unusally bad pothole season.
Extra Pothole Crews
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WEST LOOP — By now, Chicago's drivers have probably taken notice of yet another impact of the so-called "Chiberia" weather: potholes.

The sub-zero temperatures and heavy snowfall this winter have led to an increased number of potholes throughout the city, and the Department of Transportation is now adding more street crews to keep up with the problem.

So far this year, CDOT workers have already filled in 175,000 potholes, far more than in the same time period during the past five years, the city said. Last year, the city filled in 100,422 potholes through February, according to transportation department numbers.

The city is calling back six seasonal work crews about a month early to help address the problem, said Tom Carney, CDOT's deptuy commissioner.

Cars maneuver Upper Wacker potholes
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DNAinfo/Alex Parker

The crews, which normally begin working in April, will hit the streets next Saturday, March 1, and Carney estimates the extra hands will help fill an extra 25,000 potholes by the end of March.

"Winter has given us a very good punch, so we're adding crews to punch back," Carney said Saturday, as one crew poured asphalt along Halsted Street in the West Loop. "Every winter, the moisture and snow and the freeze-thaw cycle impacts the road in Chicago, [but] this winter has been particularly harsh."

CDOT officials could not immediately provide figures for how much the extra crews would cost, but Carney said those costs would not include any overtime pay.

Exact figures on how much the city has spent overall fixing potholes so far this winter were also not immediately available, but at an estimated cost of $12 per pothole, the city has spent about $2.1 million so far this year, according to a CDOT spokesman.

Transportation officials also said they do not expect money allocated to fix potholes to be affected by this year's snow removal costs, which is $4.5 million over budget according to a Sun-Times report.

The city has reportedly used millions of dollars from the motor fuel tax fund, which is generally set aside to resurface city streets.

But in addition to the city's motor fuel tax, CDOT receives money from several sources to address potholes, which include things like aldermanic menu funds as well as state and federal funds, a spokesman said.

The extra workers will allow CDOT to deploy nearly 30 crews throughout the city during the week and double crews working on the weekends, from three to six.

Carney said the city has seen 311 calls about potholes rise this year due to the bad weather. The 311 system organizes the location of calls into clusters and, taking into account travel times, creates a route for CDOT crews, Carney said. Crews are directed to fill in every pothole along their routes.

And in addition to 311 calls, CDOT is alerted to potholes by aldermen, the Streets and Sanitation department as well as police and fire departments.

"Locations that we find where there's cars being damaged or it's impacting traffic, we obviously prioritize those and get over to those right away," Carney said.

Last month, the city unveiled an online tracker for residents to follow where potholes were repaired. Potholes can be reported online or by calling 311.

The city also has a process by which residents whose cars are damaged by potholes can be reimbursed, using funds generated by city stickers.

Last year the city clerk's office processed 1,346 claims. In 2012, 992 were processed, and more than 1,600 in 2011.