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Freeze-thaw weather wreaks havoc on city streets

Alonzo Jenkins (left) Todd Crump fill potholes with cold-mix asphalt Lewis Avenue north WashingtStreet Waukegan.   | Dan Moran/Sun-Times

Alonzo Jenkins (left) and Todd Crump fill potholes with cold-mix asphalt on Lewis Avenue north of Washington Street in Waukegan. | Dan Moran/Sun-Times Media

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Updated: March 15, 2014 3:47AM

It was 46 degrees in downtown Waukegan on Monday, Jan. 13 — 62 degrees warmer than it had been exactly one week earlier.

That is good news for human beings, but not for the cars they drive, as potholes fueled by three days of subzero temperatures followed by three days of 40-degree thawing opened up all across Lake County.

“What a difference a week makes,” said Waukegan Public Works Director Tom Hagerty as he walked with a moving road crew north on Lewis Avenue Monday morning. The team of four would spot potholes large and small, fish any water out of them and throw in a pile of cold-mix asphalt.

The patching job would be completed by having a dump truck roll back and forth over the spot, leaving a repair that Hagerty said could be permanent but is designed to hold up at least until construction season.

“This is a high-performance cold mix,” Hagerty said of the black, waxy substance. “It’s not the old type that you would put it in and traffic carries it out. It’s a newer version of it, and it’s got different oils and polymers (and) it tends to stay a lot longer than the old type.”

He added that how long the patches last “depends on the freeze-thaw cycle and how many more of those we’re going to get. The bigger holes we’ll come back and re-do in the spring.”

In North Chicago, Public Works Director Josh Wheeler said his crews are also making use of cold mix, and he warned motorists to be wary on roadways with older sufaces while repairs are made.

“There are two major areas that people should be aware of, and those are 14th Street and Lewis Avenue,” Wheeler said. “Those are scheduled to be repaired by the county in the next few years, (but) as long as the weather allows, we’ll be out there doing whatever we can.”

Wheeler added that Lewis is scheduled for a $2.8 million resurfacing job in 2014 between Dugdale Road and Route 137, with the project going out for bid in April.

Lewis is also a current headache in Waukegan. With departments still trying to avoid overtime during lean budget years, Hagerty said the citywide plan is to have patching crews out 40 hours a week Monday through Friday with targets priortized by traffic load.

“It’s arterial streets first, then we’ll get the bus routes and then the residentials,” said Hagerty. “We’ll start with the streets that have the most. We kind of have a route that we go through, (with) Lewis Avenue being the one that seems to have a lot of potholes. Washington Street has a lot of potholes. As we observe them, we dispense crews to them.”

Hagerty added that the city is fortunate that a number of major roadways in the city “are in decent shape” after being resurfaced in recent years, including much of Belvidere Road and Grand Avenue. Sunset Avenue was resurfaced between Green Bay Road and Lewis just last summer.

But even Belvidere was affected by holes caused by a water-main break on the 1200 block last week. On the southbound lane of Sheridan Road approaching Grand, another water-main rupture left a jagged hole so large that it a warning sign was placed in front of it to await repairs.

North Chicago was also dogged by water-main breaks during the deep freeze, with five significant incidents that included one on Green Bay Road south of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. Wheeler said sites like those must await a long run of snow-free weather to allow for more extensive repairs, since the existing asphalt often needs to be cut as well as patched.

Waukegan residents with reports about particularly large or dangerous potholes on city streets are asked to call (847) 360-0944. The North Chicago Public Works department can be reached at (847) 596-8870.

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