Windy City Full of Holes - NBC Chicago

Windy City Full of Holes

City lacks funds to fix ever-growing pothole problem



    Celebrate This Holiday Season in Lively St. Charles
    A trash can warns drivers of a massive pothole along Madison Street in Chicago.

    There are a lot of holes in this story.

    Despite a huge increase in the number and severity of potholes on city streets, the city is unable to perform basic repair work for lack of funds, according to a recent NBC investigation.

    And by all accounts, the problem's only going to get worse.

    “[The pothole] increase corresponds with the lack of arterial resurfacing that has been done the last couple of years,” said Tom Powers, Acting Commissioner for the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT).

    And no wonder -- city officials say they received no state money in 2007 and 2008 for road repair.

    Perhaps the worst examples of the city's negligence are apparent on Chicago's West Side.

    The pavement problem's so bad that, in certain parts of Madison Street, CTA buses can't pull up to the curb.

    “When (people) get off the bus, they sink down into the potholes,” said Cortez Jones, who watches from his Madison Street barbershop. “That’s crazy.”

    The problem extends citywide. According to the Hartford’s 2009 Drivability Survey, 63% of Chicago drivers from all over the city say they routinely encounter potholes.

    “They are all over the city,” said 28th Ward Alderman Ed Smith, whose purview includes that section of Madison Street. “Haven’t been able to fix them all because the dollars aren’t there," he said. "The state has had a big hole in their budget. We have a big hole in our budget right now.”

    In its attempts to rectify the situation, the city's spent $40 million from a mini-capital bill approved by the legislature this spring to repave 500 blocks of residential streets, says Powers.

    In addition, federal stimulus funds are being used to repave 31 miles of major streets. Another 80 miles are planned for next year, bringing the total to about 10% of Chicago's streets.

    Still there are potholes aplenty. 

    According to the city the average number of complaints of potholes during this time of the year is about 800. CDOT reportedly filled 400,000 potholes from last winter alone.

    The Legislature has passed a major capital bill for more road resurfacing, but given the state's fiscal crisis officials in Springfield have been unable to issue bonds to fund it.

    So hold on. Winter -- and even more potholes -- are fast approaching.

    “If your meteorologists are correct in saying the El Niño effects will make this a more mild winter,” said Michael Pagano, the Dean of the College of Urban Planning at UIC, "it sounds to me we are saying there will be even more freezing and thawing."

    Freeze-thaw cycles allow water to seep under roads, which then freezes to expand the pavement, and thaws to create large cracks in the asphalt, says Pagano.

    "Potholes," says Pagano. "They will grow even more.”