The tip of a traffic cone pokes out of a pothole in the 1800 block of North Wells.
Updated: April 13, 2014 6:19AM
Water Management crews scrambled Tuesday to fill a six-foot hole in the middle of a busy Old Town street five days after the problem was reported to 911.
The scary situation in the 1800 block of North Wells in the historical district known as Old Town Triangle is another indication that potholes are not the only problem wreaking havoc on Chicago streets during this brutal winter that just won’t quit.
“After city crews from both [Transportation] and Water Management investigated the hole, it was determined that the problem was cause by a collapsed catch basin outlet pipe,” Water Management spokesman Tom LaPorte said Tuesday.
“We do have a freeze-thaw cycle that can sometimes compromise pipes. That’s why we had a water main break [Monday] night. Sometimes, soil shifts. Stresses are made more acute by freeze-and-thaw. Water management crews are working to repair the pipe and fill the hole as quickly as we can.”
Later Tuesday, LaPorte said Water Management was notified of the hole on Friday, investigated and “put in for a permit” that day to excavate the street and do the repairs.
“Permits take a couple of days, and other utilities are given time to mark their assets beneath the street," LaPorte added. "A Water Management repair crew has undertaken repairs. A metal plate protects the repair site.”
He also said, "The cones were in place . . . [advising] motorists of the need for special caution. There were no accidents at the site,” LaPorte said.
Retired area resident Edward Howlett said he got out of a cab at around 10:30 p.m. last Thursday and “almost stepped in” the hole. He called 911 as soon as he walked in the door.
“A squad car came. We found cones next to a building and put two of them up around the hole. One fell in the hole or someone threw it in there,” said Howlett, whose father, Mike, was a longtime Il. Secretary of State who defeated incumbent Gov. Dan Walker in the 1976 Democratic primary only to lose the general election to Republican Jim Thompson.
Edward Howlett said the police officer “called it in on the radio and the dispatcher told him Streets and Sanitation would be alerted. He told them, `This is going to be a disaster if a bus or something hits this hole.’ “ But, City Hall didn’t swing into action until the Sun-Times posted the story.
Edward Howlett once ran for alderman against now-retired Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd). But, he did not call his local Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) to complain about the hole while waiting for the city to respond.
“Once you call 911 or 311, you shouldn’t have to do much else,” Howlett said Tuesday before Water Management crews arrived on the scene.
“They should fix it. It’s right in the center of the street. If a child on a bike — or anything [or anybody else] hits that hole — they’re going right in it.”
If Howlett or anyone else had fallen into the hole during the five-day wait for repairs, it could have been extremely costly for Chicago taxpayers.
Last month, a Cook County jury awarded $2.27 million to a postal worker who ruptured his ACL in March, 2008 after stepping into a sinkhole at the intersection of Kimball and Altgeld in Logan Square.
Gerald Bekkerman, an attorney representing the postal worker, said his client was “not able to see the sinkhole in the crosswalk” because it was obscured by the mail cart he was pushing. Even after six surgeries and years of therapy, the postal worker is still unable to return to work, the attorney said.
“The city of Chicago admitted that it knew about the sinkhole for a period of six months through numerous 311 calls and even took trips to the scene to examine the sinkhole. At trial, they admitted they knew the sinkhole could cause harm. However, it was not repaired--or covered,” Bekkerman wrote in an e-mail to the Sun-Times.
Howlett’s e-mailed complaint—complete with an attached photo of the hole — arrived in the inbox of a Chicago Sun-Times reporter just hours after Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced plans to give potholes along 1,055 miles of arterial streets triage treatment even if the holes have to be filled and refilled because cold patch doesn’t last.