By Rachel White
Mayor Rahm Emanuel understands that many Chicago residents are angry with the number of potholes leftover from last winter, and that could have consequences for his political future. He spent part of his day Thursday shaking hands with crewmembers from the Chicago Department of Transportation who were filling in potholes on the city’s Northwest Side.
The mayor also announced a plan to nearly double the average number of miles in Chicago that are repaved annually. He made the announcement at a ceremony to christen a newly paved stretch of Fullerton Avenue. His plan will ensure that Chicago residents no longer have to “slow down to a snail’s pace because of potholes,” Emanuel said.
Rebekah Scheinfeld, commissioner of the transportation department, was there to bask in Emanuel’s praise. “We are really excited today with the near completion of this work on Fullerton. It’s a 1.6 mile stretch all the way from Ashland to Milwaukee,” she said “It’s one of the longest stretches that we have in the city right now.”
The project at the intersection on the North Side is a glimpse of what Chicagoans can expect in the future, Emanuel said.
“We’ve also set a new standard going forward. We used to do around 175 miles a year of paving from now on we’re never going below 300 miles,” Emanuel said at the press conference.
The mayor also plans to set aside an additional $10 million in funds to go toward filling potholes year round instead of seasonally. Emanuel’s proposed 2015 budget proposes an increase in the city’s parking tax to pay for that expenditure.
More than 250 miles of roads have already been repaved this year. But that hasn’t stopped Chicago residents from being angry.
Ald. Rey Colón of Chicago’s 35th Ward said at least one Chicago resident demonstrated his frustration by throwing asphalt through his office window on two separate occasions in May.
“They wanted to let us know that they really wanted their potholes filled, we’re getting that done today, and we’re getting it done at a great pace,” Colón said.
Another alderman, Ricardo Munoz of Chicago’s 22nd Ward, recently started filling potholes himself to embarrass City Hall into paying more attention to his ward.
The city’s 2014 plan to restore 355 miles of streets and alleys has about 100 miles left to go before reaching its goal.
“Hopefully we’ll have good weather like this for the rest of the month,” Colon said at the ceremony.
Emanuel said road improvements would increase economic development in neighborhoods across Chicago, which is an integral part of the mayor’s strategy.