A Story About Potholes and What Can Be Done About Them | WBEZ
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A Story About Potholes and What Can Be Done About Them

In the past few days, it's finally started to feel like winter has come to an end in Chicago. But the season has left its mark. Thousands of potholes still dot the city's streets, making driving and biking more hazardous than usual. For a month, WBEZ has been asking people to send us photographs of the city's most outrageous potholes. This is the tale of a few of them.

Once upon a time, David Schalliol was out exploring and taking pictures. He's a sociologist and an editor of the Chicago blog Gaper's Block. A couple weeks ago, in the Englewood neighborhood, he came across the biggest pothole he'd ever seen.

SCHALLIOL: I've seen a lot of horrible potholes on the South Side and this really took the cake.

RHEE: Now see, I don't think this qualifies as a pothole, this is something more than a pothole.

SCHALLIOL: Maybe some people think it's a sinkhole, maybe.

RHEE: So just to describe what we're looking at right now, it is probably a five, six-foot wide hole in the ground, and it is filled with garbage, so there islike a can of carrots, a baby doll's head, someone actually put a garbage bag in there, it looks like.

SCHALLIOL: It's true, it's true.

Seriously, though, the hole David discovered isn't technically a pothole. It's way too deep to be fixed with a patch of asphalt. But the hole stands as a kind of example of what's going on around the neighborhood. The streets are pocked. A few blocks away, I see Genavie Sanford pushing her two kids in a stroller. She bumps and tilts them across a chewed up section of 55th Street.

SANFORD: It's really difficult to get around, even with my stroller, so I know what the cars are going through.

RHEE: This street's pretty bad.

SANFORD: This street is a mess, and it's been like that for over six, seven years since I've been coming this way.

STEELE: There are over 3800 miles of streets in the city of Chicago and any one of those miles can have a pothole.

Brian Steele is a spokesperson for the city's Department of Transportation. He says pothole crews have been working seven days a week. They've filled more than 350,000 potholes since December. But this winter has been especially bad, so there's a backlog.

STEELE: There are more potholes than we have the ability to get to right away, we get to every pothole that's called into 3-1-1 -- our crews will go and repair.  But because there are so many of them, we have to prioritize our efforts.

Steele says new state and federal money will go toward resurfacing more than a-hundred miles of streets this year. And that could mean fewer potholes next winter.

In the meantime, some people are taking the situation into their own hands. In one case, a caved-in hole on Fullerton Avenue was filled with a car tire. Derek Dohler took a picture of it for our contest. We visited the location this week and the hole had been fixed.

DOHLER: I think that's great, I'm glad they fixed it, there's a lot of other potholes that they got to get working on so I guess they're slowly working through them...

Dohler goes on listing some of the other big ones he's encountered on his bike. He remembers exactly where they are.

DOHLER: I think there was another one on the other side of the intersection and then a few more farther down... There's one big one in the center of Milwaukee half-a-mile down South... East side of the Webster Bridge going across the river just past Webster and Ashland.

He says he hasn't called the city about the potholes. But he figures there are so many to fill, it'll take a while anyway. Maybe next winter will be a little more forgiving. But then again, this is Chicago.

Music Button: Madvillian + Four Tet & Koushik, "Curls", from the CD Remixes, (Stones Throw music)

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