Chicago potholes trigger record number of damage claims

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Mayor Rahm Emanuel has churned out a conveyor belt of press releases in his haste to address Chicago’s epidemic of potholes. But it apparently is not enough.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, more than 1,100 damage to vehicles claims were introduced, the most the City Clerk’s office that fields those complaints has ever seen, spokesman Pat Corcoran said.

The blizzard of damage claims nearly quadruples the 305 pothole-triggered claims introduced at the Feb. 5 City Council meeting. At the time, that was more than any other month in at least four years.

The City Clerk’s office processes damage claims of up to $2,000 — for everything from flat tires and bent wheel rims to cracked windshields and realignments — before passing them along to the City Council’s Finance Committee.

Forms for damage to vehicle claims are available at Motorists need to send in the completed form with a copy of the police report and either a paid repair bill or two estimates. Payment can take up to six months, but don’t count on full reimbursement.

The city usually pays half the cost, on the theory that motorists are at least partially responsible for hitting potholes instead of driving around them.


Chicago’s brutal winter — with a relentless barrage of snow, cold and wild temperature swings — has turned city streets into the surface of the moon.

With an eye on the mayoral election less than a year away, Emanuel has already moved heaven, earth and pavement to address a problem that infuriates motorists.

He started crews early, added six more weekend crews and ordered the Chicago Department of Transportation to assign all 30 of its pothole crews to main streets on Mondays and Fridays to address scores of potholes in blitzkrieg fashion using a grid system.

Most recently, he delivered on the repaving portion of his promise.

Instead of fighting a losing battle against potholes, the mayor announced that Chicago would resurface 22 more miles of arterial streets, thanks to $14 million from the state, $8 million from tax-increment-financing and funding pooled from aldermanic menu money.

The “more robust” plan calls for repaving 85 miles of arterial streets, instead of the 63 miles originally planned, at a cost of roughly $1 million per mile.

The state will contribute an additional $14 million. The remaining $8 million will come from “selected” TIF districts, undisclosed “corporate fund savings” and from a $66 million-a-year program that allows Chicago aldermen to choose from a menu of neighborhood improvements.

“This was a winter for the record books. My goal is to have a paving season for the record books to match it,” the mayor told reporters on the day he announced the “more robust” paving program.

“A newly paved road is less likely to have the type of pothole damage that you see from an older road. So I’d rather build new roads, pave new roads than just repair the past. Better drive, better commute. It’s better.”

Emanuel said then that 85 miles of new road may be only the beginning.

“I continue to ask [his staff] to find additional resources throughout the year. I want them to look behind the couch. If there’s a quarter, grab it. Behind the sofa? Underneath the pillows? Grab it. Because we’re gonna put more and more resources towards paving our roads, filling our potholes and making sure our streets are passable for the residents and commuters of Chicago,” he said.

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