Despite city efforts to repair the roads, Chicagoans still see potholes as a growing problem.
Not all students drive or keep a car on campus, but for the Loyola community, Chicago potholes are still an important issue. With shuttle drivers forced to dodge them as they navigate their way down Chicago’s busy roads, potholes make the shuttle anything but a smooth or safe trip for students and faculty traveling from campus to campus. Commuters must also navigate their way around potholes, and are sometimes forced to drive through them when a car accident appears to be the alternative.
Not only that, but like the growing number of Chicagoans biking around the city, students bicyclists must weave in between the numerous ditches that fill the streets. With oncoming traffic to also look out for, it can be a dangerous experience.
Potholes are the result of extreme weather and excessive use of the pavement or the repeated pressure of traffic driving over them again and again, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT). And with the extreme weather Chicago has seen this winter, the large number of potholes in the city is almost to be expected. Thousands of potholes are filled daily, but there is no exact estimate of how many potholes there are currently in Chicago, according to CDOT.
On Jan. 10, a press release from the office of Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced that CDOT would have crews working seven days a week to repair roads. The addition of weekend crews came a week earlier than previous years, according to the press release.
“All city departments are working to ensure our roadways are safe, and this includes repairing the many potholes that formed as a result of the 23 inches of snow we’ve had this year and the bitter cold temperatures earlier this week,” Mayor Emanuel said in the press release.
In all of 2013, crews repaired 625,000 potholes, according to CDOT. In January 2014 alone, CDOT crews filled 100,000 potholes.
Despite the efforts of CDOT, potholes are no less of a nuisance for city drivers, including Loyola’s shuttle bus drivers.
Loyola shuttle bus driver Danielle Morgan spends several hours throughout the course of her shift traveling back and forth between the Water Tower and Lake Shore campuses. She said filling potholes should be one of Chicago’s priorities because of the accidents and damage they can cause to drivers and their cars.
“I have noticed this year, that I didn’t notice last year, a number of people having blow-outs and flat tires on the road,” she said. “[Potholes] can cause accidents of any type of nature if we’re not cautious about watching for the potholes themselves.”
Whether or not a pothole gets filled quickly seems to have a lot to do with location, she said. From her experience, potholes on Sheridan Road and Lakeshore Drive are always among the quickest to be filled.
She referenced a pothole that was previously on Sheridan Road, right at the start of the shuttle’s route on the Lake Shore Campus.
“I ran past it like two or three days and after that the city came right in and filled it up,” Morgan said.
In a later press release, Mayor Emanuel announced the arrival of the new Pothole Tracker, a CDOT database that tracks the progress of pothole repairs in the city. The website shows a map of Chicago streets with a scattering of blue dots, each indicating where crews filled a pothole. On any given day, the last seven days’ worth of potholes are recorded for anyone to view. When a mouse pointer is hovered over a dot, Chicagoans can see when crews filled the pothole, and the number of potholes that crews filled on that particular block.
Pothole Tracker shows that this pothole and three others on Sheridan Road were filled Feb. 19.
The database also shows that crews have filled 5 other potholes on this block of Sheridan Road, since the new year.
“The City of Chicago is filling thousands of potholes every day in response to resident requests for service,” Mayor Emanuel said in the press release. The new database is meant to allow Chicagoans to track the city’s progress in reparations.
Mustafa Ryad, a senior biology major, is no stranger to the potholes of Chicago. He commutes to the Lake Shore Campus, drives to work and often to Northwestern University to pick up his sister.
“I hit [potholes] all the time,” the 25-year-old Ryad said. “You’re driving straight on the road somewhere, and all of a sudden because someone in front of you saw a pothole they take themselves out of its way. You think, ‘Is [the car] about to hit something?’ and then you notice there’s a pothole and either you have enough time do the same thing, or you end up in the pothole yourself.”
It also slows driving, he said, and the constant change in acceleration can cause accidents if drivers aren’t cautious.
“There was a pothole under Hollywood Avenue,” Ryad said. “And if you were in the lane closest to the curb and driving at 30 miles per hour or so, you had to either take yourself out of the lane or slow down real fast. It can be dangerous.”
Sophomore Haley Castele keeps a car on the Lake Shore Campus to drive to and from dance classes downtown several days a week. Potholes cause her the most problems at night, she said.
“It’s hard to avoid them, but especially in the dark,” the 19-year-old statistics major said. “You can’t really tell which potholes have been filled and which ones haven’t. Not only am I worrying about watching cars around me, I have to keep an eye on the road itself in front of me.”
But, she said, she acknowledges Chicago’s efforts in repairing the roads.
“I’m sure the city of Chicago is doing the best they can, and I do see that they’re being filled,” said Castele, a statistics major. “But there’s still a lot out there, especially on the side streets and those ones are sometimes worse than the ones on the busier streets; they’re going to be last to be filled.”
Castele said she has been fortunate not to have had any serious damage to her car, but she suspects that the potholes have taken a toll on her tires.
According to CDOT, Chicagoans have several options for requesting a pothole be filled. They can call 311, file a request on the city’s website, text “Chicago” to 311311, or make the request through one of department’s apps, such as SeeClickFix or Chicago Works.