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Chicago Crews Prepare To Patch Up Persistent Pothole Problems

CHICAGO (CBS) -- We've endured one cycle from deep freeze to rapid thaw with another one on the way.

Which is why City Hall is trying to get ahead of an expected explosion in potholes. But how deep is the Chicago's commitment to street repair? CBS 2 political reporter Derrick Blakley gets to the bottom of the matter...and the numbers.

The city of Chicago's transportation department said it is ready to go to war against potholes. But the budget numbers question whether drivers are getting a fair return on their transportation taxes.

City crews on Washtenaw fill a series o f potholes. It's one of 25 crews now dedicated seven days a week citywide to pothole repair until April. The city expecting the problem will get much worse - and soon.

"It certainly doesn't do the pavement good to have these 50 degree temperature swings," said CDOT First Deputy Tom Carney. "But it's where we have a series of them, multiple times during the week, is where we see the worst of the worst pothole conditions."

That freeze-thaw cycle is the enemy that pits and then potholes the pavement.

"The moisture seeps into the pavement. That moisture then expands and contracts with the freezing and the thawing and over time, it deteriorates the roadway," added Carney.

But just how deep is the city's commitment to street repair? In the 2019 budget, the city spends 543 million dollars on CDOT, but just under 20 million is dedicated to "asphalt maintenance."

That's about three and a half percent of CDOT's overall spending.

Looking at the bigger picture, nine percent of the city budget comes from transportation taxes: Parking, fuel and ride-share. Yet CDOT amounts to just two percent of that spending.

Drivers and riders paying to use the roads aren't seeing the payback in street maintenance and repair. But Ald. Joe Moore (49th) points the finger at Washington and Springfield.

"What we really need is a commitment on the part of the federal government, and the state government, to give the cities the tools they need to keep their infrastructure in good repair," said Moore.

In response, CDOT said that 20 million dollars in the city budget is simply for pothole repair and fixing street cracks. It doesn't include the amount that was spent on 300 miles of resurfacing city streets last year.

That's done with a mix of federal, state and local monies. But when asked how many local dollars went to street resurfacing last year, the city said it could not say.

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