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Even Emanuel Is Sick Of Potholes As Claims Soar

By Chuck Sudo in News on Feb 27, 2014 5:00PM

Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

This winter seems to finally be getting to the normally unflappable Rahm Emanuel. His Elective Majesty said during a news conference in Englewood Wednesday he’s as frustrated as all Chicagoans about the current state of the city’s streets and wants immediate action.

"I ordered the staff about two weeks ago to work up a robust repaving plan so [we're] building new roads, not just fixing old ones," he said. "And I ask them about it, oh, I would say, five, six times a day."

Unfortunately that impatient, childlike “are we there yet” persistence isn’t producing the results the mayor expects. The city announced earlier that crews have patched more potholes this year than in 2013 but that is a no-brainer considering this winter is the harshest many residents have seen in their lifetimes. The city did unveil an online pothole tracker last month so residents can view the job city crews are doing but it’s really a Sisyphean effort at this point. All that remains is for Emanuel to have a photo op in front of an asphalt truck to show the city is on the proverbial case.

Pothole tracker

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Emanuel told assembled media to be on the lookout for an announcement of a "robust paving plan" in the coming weeks and that he'll continue asking for more pothole crews on the streets working longer hours to patch every pothole they can find. But that's going to cost money and Emanuel has already dipped into the motor fuel tax reserve normally used to fund pothole repair to finance the futile snow removal.

Another sign that this winter has been a budget buster at City Hall: damage claims related to potholes are piling up. More than 280 claims were introduced at this month's City Council meeting, more than any month in the past four years. And that includes the Thundersnow of 2011. Chicago received 743 pothole damage claims in 2013; only 18 in February.

That number should be expected to grow: with over 600,000 potholes reported to the city's 311 system Chicago's streets more resemble a teen with a serious acne breakout than your standard winter-ravaged street grid. Chicago magazine's Adam Doster offers tips on how to document and file a pothole damage claim on the magazine's website that may seem like it isn't worth the effort; the claim does go to City Council for a straight "yay or nay" vote and it could take up to 18 months for reimbursement. That still may be faster than seeing some of these potholes patched.