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Hundreds Of Chicagoans Voice Concerns About Underpass Conditions, But What Should Really Cause Worry?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- It was the crack heard 'round the world -- or at least across Chicago. In 2019 a bridge emergency halted traffic on one of the city's busiest roads. Now a CBS 2 viewer is worried it could happen again.

CBS 2 Morning Insider Lauren Victory sorted out fact from fear.

You'll often find drone photographer Nicholas Brumfield scanning our skies. Recently, his focus on beautiful shots from above our city shifted to more unsightly images of what's below. He sent pictures to CBS 2 of a spot he was concerned about under DuSable Lake Shore Drive between Wacker and Randolph.

"When I captured those photos a lot of things that were in the news were like the Surfside condo collapse and a lot of things about infrastructure," said Brumfield who owns Windy City Aerial.

He put up his drone to get a closer look at the damage he spied from the ground.

"I'm not an engineer, but basically what I saw was exposed rebar," Brumfield said.

The rusty-looking stuff was near the same support beams that underwent emergency repairs in February 2019. Remember the infamous crack that shutdown the whole bridge?

The CBS Chicago Morning Insiders tapped Civil Engineer Diden Ozevin then and now to explain what should and should not worry people like Brumfield.

"This is not an immediate concern," said Ozevin, pointing to a corroded section of concrete with steel bars exposed.

The associate professor at University of Illinois Chicago explained further to Brumfield and our cameras.

"This repair doesn't really have any load bearing. The main load bearing is reinforcing bars and the concrete inside."

The Morning Insiders found hundreds of Chicagoans have voiced concerns about underpass conditions to 311 in the past three years. Many of the complaints are about crumbling debris.

Ozevin called that a safety concern but not necessarily a structural concern. It's usually more wear and tear than anything.

"I do feel better," said Brumfield after the brief engineering lesson.

So what should the public call in about?

"Bolts missing or cracking [in connection areas]," said Ozevin.

Nothing major appeared to plague Brumfield's neighborhood this time, but he plans to return regularly with his gear for more drone inspections.

"This something that really concerned me and that I thought I could make a positive change with through my photography," said Brumfield.

Chicago's Department of Transportation says corroded steel found during the 2019 emergency was replaced within weeks and that CDOT also made "proactive repairs" to other sections showing signs of corrosion in the months following.

The department's most recent inspection of the area was this June.

CDOT analyzed Brumfield's photos and a spokesperson tells CBS 2, "The photos show superficial cracked concrete on the steel reinforced pier cap. This was identified in the recent inspection, and it has been previously scheduled for maintenance this fall."


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