Warm Winter, New Strategies Lets City Gets Potholes Under Control

Back in November, Chicago could be considered the pothole capital of the U.S.

It wasn’t a surprise to local motorists experiencing the bumpy experience of driving on Chicago’s pockmarked roads that there was nearly 7000 open requests to fill potholes back then.

But today, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced pothole repair crews have drastically reduced the number of potholes in the past three months to just 300 open repair requests.

Impressively, according to CDOT, crews are essentially keeping up with daily calls for service having reduced the average time to repair a pothole to just 2.5 days.

“Pothole-repair crews are now deployed in a way that maximizes efficiency and
increases productivity,” said CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. “By using smarter strategies, the result has been the elimination of a large backlog of outstanding calls for service.”

Some of these improvements include using a new mapping technology to help route crews more efficiently as well as having all asphalt materials being delivered to four neighborhood CDOT filed offices to eliminate wasted time transporting asphalt from the city’s supplier.

Even Klein admits that the brutally mild winter has also helped contribute to CDOT’s ability to catch up with the city’s chronic pothole problem that comes from a typical winter with its many freeze and thaw cycles.

2011, with its record snowfalls gave city streets a bumper crop of potholes compared to 2010, with over 600,000 potholes being filled compared to around 450,000 the previous year.

So far this year, pothole repair numbers are not significantly lower than in previous years according to CDOT spokesperson Peter Scales.

Scales says 57,000 potholes were filled last January, 49,000 in January 2010 and about 47,000 this January.

“Since we are able to do about 2,500-3,000 a day, that’s really not a big drop in the numbers in a year-over-year comparison,” explains Scales. “So, that means our new deployment and mapping systems are working to knock out the outstanding calls.”

Scales believes the true impact of the changes CDOT has made in this area in early spring.

“We do believe that we will see a difference in the number of calls and potholes filled in the next couple of months – February-April – when pothole numbers usually spike due to the changes in the weather and the thawing of the ground,” says Scales. “Since the temperatures have been relatively warm, there haven’t been those wild swings of freezing/thawing, and we haven’t had any real crazy storms, we expect that there will be fewer potholes to address this early spring than in years’ past.”

And, according to Scales this could translate into starting street paving projects earlier than normal.

“Because of that, we may be able to start our street paving projects a little earlier this year, which will allow us to pave more streets, and in the long run, will reduce potholes even further,” said Scales.

7 Responses to Warm Winter, New Strategies Lets City Gets Potholes Under Control

  1. DoR Employee says:

    Ah yes…the perpetual Job syndrome.

    Use poor quality materials….wait a year….fix all the new pot holes.

  2. Pete says:

    Ever notice that Illinois has the most road construction and the poorest quality roads? I wonder why that is.

  3. DoR Employee says:

    No…Michigan has 2 seasons..

    Winter and Orange Barrel

  4. DoR Employee says:

    I travel there to Hunt several times a winter….tis how I know.

  5. Millie says:

    All they are doing is using cheap material to keep them working. Why all of a sudden the same streets use to last so long now as soon as rain or snow comes there goes the money.

  6. Millie says:

    When it is to hot the street melt also.

  7. Russ says:

    As a Chicagoan who both drives a car and commutes by bike, I sincerely hope the savings the city has realized in the (non) winter of 2010-2011 will translate into road repair this summer.

    I’ve actually been following this phenomenon in the Midwest and elsewhere this winter on Pothole.info, a site dedicated to all things pavement. They began reporting in January about how major and midsize cities were accumulating savings (Bloomington IL had only spent $8,000 of its $325,000 budget, while Chicago spent only $500,000 of its $20 million snow removal/salting line item).

    Another article on the site (http://www.pothole.info/2012/02/can-warm-winter-snowplow-savings-fix-potholes/?) cited how in January 2011, 42 percent of the U.S. had snow cover, but a year later in January 2012 that was down to 13 percent of the U.S. land mass. These savings should be put to good use in lots of cities and counties, where budget cutbacks in recent years have led to serious pavement disintegration.

    Let’s get rid of the potholes! They’re bad for my car and a potential death trap for bikers.

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