The Fix Is In On Olympic Potholes

Low-traffic streets given high priority due to IOC visit

Every Chicago driver has a pothole horror story.

In fact, just outside my apartment building, there is a hole that could easily qualify as a moon crater. It's three feet wide and at least six inches deep. As I look at it through my window, I notice that someone has surrounded it with traffic cones and caution tape sometime between yesterday afternoon and this morning. But I'd bet dollars to donuts that the caution tape isn't the city's doing.

Because the city hasn't been doing much of anything. While a few temporary patches are being put down, most of Lake Shore Drive and many of Chicago's main thoroughfares are a dangerous obstacle course for commuters. Drivers swerve left and right, hoping to avoid a flat tire or even axle damage.

Earlier this week, Transportation Commissioner Thomas Byrne explained that the city has to use temporary patches instead of complete resurfacing because of a steady 3-year decline in state funding for paving arterial roads.

And yet, this morning, South Siders may have noticed that the less-traveled streets surrounding Washington Park were getting the special treatment.

Whereas many potholes on major streets have not been attended to in weeks, dozens of city workers today are repaving the lanes that wind through Washington Park, where an International Olympic Committee team will be visiting in April.

The Department of Transportation admitted that the south side work was given immediate priority because of the visit.

"We wanted to hit some of the streets near the planned Olympic venues before the IOC visit," spokesperson Brian Steele told the Chicago Tribune.

But the work is raising more than a few eyebrows among taxpayers. Many are questioning the Mayor's priorities, especially when mental health clinics and schools are closing.

Jay Travis, executive director of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization, speculates that Daley is paying more attention to international guests than his own city residents.

"It's a shame these communities don't receive this level of investment and attention they need on a regular basis," she said. "It shouldn't take international visitors."

Matt Bartosik, editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and "between blogs" blogger, nearly lost his lunch in a pothole.

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