Pothole alert: drive with caution

Written By By MARY MITCHELL Posted: 02/23/2014, 02:39am
Array A stretch of potholes along Wacker drive. | Alex Wroblewski/Sun-Times

This is a public service announcement.

If you are one of the thousands of motorists that exit northbound Lake Shore Drive at Wacker, you might want to slow down.

The stretch from Lake Shore Drive to Michigan Avenue is already hazardous because southbound traffic has to cross traffic that is exiting northbound Lake Shore in order to get to lower Wacker Drive.

Unfortunately, many drivers are weaving all over the road trying to avoid craters.

The horrendous pothole situation matches the horrible winter we’re enduring, so it’s understandable, though regrettable, that work crews can’t keep up.

This winter has exposed more than our raw nerves. It has exposed long-neglected infrastructure problems. Since Jan. 1., the city has filled about 165,000 pot holes across the city, according to the city’s Department of Transportation.

Thus far, the city has gotten 11,325 requests for pothole repairs.

“If you’ve got one pot hole, we fill everything on the block and as you can see the ratio is about 10 pot holes for every request,” noted Peter Scales, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Transportation.

I watched the potholes at East Wacker Drive multiply daily, convinced that someone else must have reported that the street now looks like it has been hit by meteorites.

“We are well aware of the problem,” Scales told me on Friday.

“It’s an old structure that at some point will need to be resurfaced. The older the asphalt, the more potential for cracks,” he said.

Although AAA doesn’t track the calls the company gets because of pothole damage, a spokeswoman for the company said there’s a larger picture.

“While there are a lot of potholes, many due to the extreme weather we’ve had, there needs to be more dollars allocated throughout the year on a local, state and federal level to properly maintain the roads,” said Beth Mosher, director of Public Affairs for AAA.

“Funding for roads sometimes takes a back seat to other critical funding needs and it’s not until these potholes pop up that the need becomes crystal clear,” she said.

Last week, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that the city has set a goal of paving 300 miles of city streets in order to address the seasonal pothole problem.

Meanwhile, Chicagoans are encouraged to go to pothole tracker, an online tool that is supposed to at least give us peace of mind.

The online tracker shows where the city has patched potholes over the past seven days.

There are also apps available for iPhones and iPads that can alert you about potholes. I downloaded the Pothole Alert 311 app on my iPhone. With any luck, I’ll have figured out how to use it before next winter rolls around.

In the meantime, I’m on edge.

I’ve already blown out two tires.

Several weeks ago, I fell into a giant pothole on Indianapolis Blvd. in Hammond that took out the wheels and tires on the passenger side of my vehicle.

Apparently, some local tire shops are getting more business than they can handle due to potholes.

But a manager at Cassidy Tires, located at 344 N. Canal St., Chicago, who declined to give his name, noted that he actually saw more vehicles damaged three to four years ago.

“It usually starts in mid February, but it started the last couple of weeks in January. It’s the talk of the town because it’s happening right now,” he told me.

He offered this advice for avoiding being sidelined by a pothole:

“Stay off your cell phone. Keep two car lengths’ distance and drive the speed limit,” he said.

We can do that. Can’t we?

Email: marym@suntimes.com

Twitter: @MaryMitchellCST

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