LINCOLN PARK — Tens of thousands of potholes are pockmarking the city’s streets after a particularly harsh winter.
In fact, the city received 16,569 reports of potholes in alleys and streets between December and the end of February — a 20 percent increase over last year, said Mike Claffey, Department of Transportation spokesman. And Chicago’s workers filled nearly 10 times as many potholes as were reported, with about 157,976 potholes fixed up during that time period.
There was a significant uptick of potholes in February, when people reported 7,153 and the city patched up more than 80,000.
In comparison, from December 2017 to February 2018, the city had 13,605 potholes reported and workers filled 146,825 of them.
Potholes have been particularly bad this year because of the weather, said one worker as he and his crew patched a street full of potholes Wednesday in Lincoln Park. Potholes form when water under the pavement expands and contracts — which can happen quite a bit during Chicago’s freezing winters — and heavy vehicles further fatigue the asphalt, causing it to crack and cave in.
The worker and two others followed behind a truck that dumped asphalt, which they then swept into potholes and tamped down. They had to stop every few feet to address a new hole in the street.
The city has more workers than usual out fixing potholes — it’s up to 39 or 40 crews per day, Claffey said — due to this season’s bad road damage.
The crews are spread out throughout the city on a rotating basis, ensuring each ward gets pothole repairs every two or three days. More crews are sent to the areas where the most pothole reports come from, and potholes that pose a safety issue are prioritized and assigned crews “as quickly as possible,” Claffey said.
When the crews get to a street, they’ll fix every pothole they see rather than just the one that was reported, Claffey said. That explains why nearly 10 times as many potholes are filled as are reported.
Chicago residents can call 311 to report potholes or can submit complaints online.
Fixing potholes isn’t just for aesthetics: They do real damage to cars and, sometimes, people. Last fall, Amanda LeGault, of West Town, was riding her Vespa near Chicago Avenue and Elizabeth Street when she went over a pothole she hadn’t seen.
LeGault was thrown from the Vespa, fracturing her foot in three places, and her scooter was totaled in the crash, she said. She was in a boot for four months and only ended physical therapy in February. Her commute to work on the CTA now takes 45 minutes — about half an hour longer than it did when she could ride her scooter.
“I’m still not running or anything like I was,” LeGault said Thursday. She takes anti-inflammatory medication and is doing pilates to try to heal her foot. “I still have pain.”
The city does offer reimbursements for cars damaged by potholes, but they aren’t easy to get: It can take more than a year, and most drivers won’t get full reimbursements.
Stephanie Spaulding, of Brighton Park, got a flat tire after hitting a pothole near 45th Street and Western Avenue. She contacted the city about the pothole and workers repaired it within the week, though she said it took six months for the city to reimburse her half the cost of the new tire.
Spaulding doesn’t think the potholes are unusually bad this year, but said Western Avenue has quite a few. She passes a particularly bad one every day in the 4400 block of South Artesian Avenue, but said the city put a metal slab over the hole shortly after she reported it to 311.
“The whole neighborhood has bad potholes,” Spaulding said. “They’re all bad in the city.”
Block Club Chicago asked readers to send us photos of their worst potholes. We submitted those potholes to the city and kept track of which have been fixed and which haven’t been.
Here’s what happened:
Location: 10708 S. Kedzie Ave.
Status: Reported to city Feb. 18. Repaired Feb. 19.
Location: 1900 N. Avondale Ave.
Status: Reported to city Feb. 18. No update.
Location: 1440 W. Argyle
Status: Reported to city Feb. 18. No update.
Location: 4758 N. Broadway
Status: Reported to city Feb. 19. On Feb. 20, the city said it had not found a pothole.
Location: Schubert Avenue between Wayne and Southport
Status: Reported to city Feb. 19. Repaired March 6.
Location: Halsted between Chicago Avenue and Division Street
Status: Reported to city Feb. 19. No update.
Location: Diversey Avenue and Halsted Street at the southbound bus stop
Status: Reported to city Feb. 19. No update, but it appeared to be repaired during a visit March 6.
Location: Greenview, Barry and Lincoln avenues
Status: Reported to city Feb. 19 and Feb. 22. Repaired March 6.
Location: 4400 block of S. Artesian Ave.
Status: Reported to city Feb. 22. Repaired Feb. 26.
Location: Bishop between Chicago Avenue and Fry Street
Status: Reported to city Feb. 22. No update.
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