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Potholes On The Rise In Chicago

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Potholes

Potholes on Wood Street near Pierce Avenue. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The number of potholes in the city is skyrocketing, and the city is now on track to fill 220,000 potholes this season.

As CBS 2’s Kris Habermehl reports, in March, the number of potholes reported to 311 doubled from the number reported in February. This winter is now on track to be in line with the past two years.

Hardest hit were areas of the Loop, Rogers Park and Chatham, according to a Sun-Times analysis of potholes reported to 311 from February 1 through March 11.

Weather was the primary reason the city suffered fewer potholes in the first two months of the year — and weather was the culprit behind the recent surge in potholes.

That’s because the repeated freezing and thawing of water is what can transform a tiny pavement crack into a crater.

But with the city buried in a deep freeze most of December and January, there wasn’t much chance for snow to melt and refreeze.

The temperature swung above freezing on only four days in January, according to the National Weather Service. But in the latter part of February it did so on 10 days — and in March there were 20 such cycles.

So far in April, potholes do not appear to be tapering off.

“There are still a couple thousand open 311 pothole requests,” said Brian Steele, Chicago Department of Transportation spokesman. “That indicates there are obviously a goodly number of potholes out there.”

In January, the number of open pothole requests was much lower, in the hundreds, Steele said.

The biggest factors beside the weather are traffic and how recently the street has been resurfaced. Potholes tend to occur most frequently on busy arterial streets or on streets that have gone years without being repaved, Steele said.

But one of the highest concentrations of reported potholes was on residential streets in the Rogers Park neighborhood. In a six-week period, 127 potholes were reported in a few square blocks between Touhy Avene, Ashland Boulevard, Pratt Boulevard and Damen Avenue. Most of them were on two residential streets: Wolcott Avenue and Paulina Street.

“There’s patches on top of patches on patches,” said Joel Acosta, 20, pointing at the pavement on Wolcott. “This street has never been redone since I’ve lived here.” Acosta moved to the neighborhood 11 years ago.

Acosta said his mother’s car was totaled by a pothole last year and his father’s Jeep was currently in the shop due to tire damage from a pothole.

Several other areas of the city have also seen serious problems with potholes this season. The pavement was filled with craters on Wood Street near Pierce Avenue in the Wicker Park neighborhood.

The average time to fill a pothole was about three days from when it was reported. Average times ranged from 10 days in East Garfield Park on the West Side to less than a day in Fuller Park on the South Side.

The worst recent winter for potholes was 2008-2009, in which the city was averaging 4,000 potholes awaiting repair each day. As an example of how severe the problem became, in January 2009, just one viaduct on 71st Street had more than 100 potholes only in the eastbound lanes.

The Chicago Sun Times’ Art Golab contributed to this report, via the Sun-Times Media Wire

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