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Chicago potholes trigger record number of damage claims

Motorists traveling Chicago's AustAve. dodge potholes as effects harsh winter continue  challenge city's infrastructure Wednesday Feb. 12 2014 Chicago.

Motorists traveling on Chicago's Austin Ave. dodge potholes as the effects of a harsh winter continue to challenge the city's infrastructure Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2014, in Chicago. The relentless cycle of snow and bitter cold this winter is testing the skeletons of steel and cement on which communities are built. Pipes are bursting in towns not used to such things, and roads are turning into moonscapes of gaping potholes big enough to snap axles of passing vehicles like Popsicle sticks. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast) ORG XMIT: ILCA101

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Updated: May 5, 2014 8:18AM

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has churned out a conveyor belt of news 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. That brings this year’s total — to date — to roughly 2,000.

The total number of pothole-related damage-to-vehicle claims was 743 for all of last year. This year’s total — before the blizzard of claims introduced Wednesday — was 855. The latest round 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 forms with a copy of the police reports 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.


Twitter: @fspielman

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