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Pieces Of Metal, Car Parts, And Other Debris On Expressways -- How Is IDOT Handling It?

CHICAGO (CBS)-- Pieces of metal and broken car parts are seen sitting on the side of busy Chicago highways.

A Calumet Park man who had his car damaged by debris said the state needs to do a better job of keeping expressways clear and safe.

So CBS 2's Tim McNicholas put his foot on the gas and learned that for the first time in years, the state is trying to clean up much of the highway on their own rather than paying a contractor.

The Eisenhower Expressway can give you a beautiful view of Chicago, but the sides of the road are not so pretty. A broken rim, a plastic crate, and a loose bag were spotted.

McNicholas kept driving and found more debris on the expressway in the western suburbs. On the way back into the Loop, there was an entire bumper.

It was still there the next day when we showed Walt Rivers.

"What is it, cost too much to remove this stuff?" Rivers said. "What is the issue with taking care of these things? Look at that abandoned out there."

Rivers said it is not just on the Ike. He took video earlier this month of metal debris on the Kennedy Expressway just west of downtown, including a monkey wrench and pipes.

He had pulled over because he said a piece of metal had just cracked his windshield about half a mile away near the Jane Byrne Interchange construction project.

Rivers does not know if it fell directly from an overpass, or if someone else's tires kicked it up from the road.

The Illinois Department of Transportation said in some cases, construction companies are supposed to clean up the roads under their projects. But what about the scraps and debris outside of construction zones, like the Ike?

"All these things are hazards when you're out driving," Rivers said.

A 2016 study from AAA found that thousands of Americans crash every year trying to avoid debris in roadways.

"The wind could blow at anything," Rivers said. "There's no reason for the neglect."

For years, the state has paid a company called Elgin Sweeping Services to sweep highways and other busy state roads in the area.

They cleaned up debris and trash, and whatever smaller pieces the state did not get after accidents.

Public records show the state paid millions for those services in 2019.

But this year, the state rejected Elgin's bid and did not hire anyone else for the job. IDOT said they have their own sweeper trucks, and they are in the process of leasing more to be used by IDOT crews.

Elgin does still have one contract with the state, but that is only to sweep bus lanes on parts of the Stevenson Expressway and I-94 – nowhere near as big a job as they used to have.

IDOT said it plans once again to solicit bids for additional sweeping services later this year.

The state also said its full staff is now back, but for part of the spring, maintenance staff was limited due to COVID-19 precautions.


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