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2014 pothole damage claims higher than previous 3 years' total

A City crew fills large pothole 79th PeoriMonday morning. | Al Podgorski/Sun-Times

A City crew fills a large pothole at 79th and Peoria Monday morning. | Al Podgorski/Sun-Times

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Updated: June 2, 2014 12:47PM

Chicago is fighting a losing battle against potholes.

That was clear Wednesday when more than 1,200 additional damage-to-vehicle claims were introduced at a City Council meeting.

It’s the second straight month pothole-triggered claims topped the 1,000 mark. That will bring the total submitted since Jan. 1 to over 3,100. The total for the last three years was 2,426.

The blizzard of new claims helps explain why aldermen vented their anger this week at a Budget Committee hearing called to approve Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s controversial plan to use $18 million in federal community development block grant funds to resurface 15 miles of streets ravaged by the brutal winter.

When Southwest Side Ald. Matt O’Shea (19th) credited the Chicago Department of Transportation with at least “doing a good job filling potholes,” he was interrupted by Budget Committee Chairman Carrie Austin (34th).

“No, they’re not,” Austin said.

The city clerk’s office processes damage claims of up to $2,000 — for flat tires, bent wheels, realignments, etc. — before passing them along to the City Council’s Finance Committee.

Damage-to-vehicle claim forms are available at Motorists must send in the completed form with a copy of the police report 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 theory is, motorists are at least partly responsible for hitting potholes instead of driving around them.

With an eye on the mayoral election fast approaching, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already moved heaven, earth and pavement to address the problem. He started crews early, added six more weekend crews and ordered the Chicago Department of Transportation to assign all 30 pothole crews to main streets on Mondays and Fridays to address scores of potholes in blitzkrieg fashion using a grid system.

Also, instead of fighting a losing battle against potholes, the mayor earlier had announced the city 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.

On Tuesday, another 15 miles were added to that total, thanks to block grant funds. But the plan touched a nerve with the City Council.

Before the Budget Committee vote, aldermen from across the city beefed about being left out of the decision-making on which main streets to repave and about Emanuel’s decision to freeze spending in a treasured, $66 million-a-year program that has allowed Chicago aldermen to choose from a menu of neighborhood improvements.

Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), chairman of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, demanded to know why aldermen were not consulted about “their priorities” for street resurfacing before Emanuel made the decision to tap block grant funds.


Twitter: @fspielman

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