Dec 12, 2023 - News

Alders want action after street dig destroys new Grand Ave. bike lanes

street fixing equipment

More street work being done on Grand Avenue. Photo: Carrie Shepherd/Axios

Some alders are calling for better coordination of infrastructure projects after a local agency tore up the same Near West Side street that another department had completed work on just weeks earlier.

  • They say it's emblematic of a practice that happens far too frequently.

Why it matters: The repetitive digging and patching snarls traffic and, according to Ald. Gilbert Villegas, drives millions of dollars in extra costs that often could've been avoided by planning.

Driving the news: Villegas (36th) and Ald. Greg Mitchell (7th) plan to propose legislation to improve such coordination early next year.

Catch up fast: The call comes after Villegas last week denounced the Chicago Department of Water Management's decision to rip up Grand Avenue's "brand-new bike lanes and street," which were completed by the city's Transportation Department weeks prior.

  • "Never mind the fact that the surface was exposed for three months before being resurfaced," Villegas wrote on social media. "Incompetence on full display."

What they're saying: Water officials tell Axios they had to dig up the street to comply with a state law requiring water lines to be repaired within 30 days of finding a leak.

The other side: Villegas tells Axios that when he confronted CDWM commissioner Andrea Cheng about it, she blamed the 30-day rule and called the situation an emergency.

  • "If you have failed to coordinate with another department doing work, that doesn't constitute an emergency," Villegas tells Axios.

CDWM declined to provide documents showing that the leak was discovered too late to coordinate repairs with CDOT.

Between the lines: Villegas, a former Illinois Department of Transportation official, acknowledges that "an Office of Underground Coordination" is already tasked with coordinating repairs, but he alleges it "hasn't been successful" in compelling timely information-sharing.

  • "So if we need to mandate it, then we can do that with legislation," he says.

What's ahead: Mitchell says he plans to consult with CDOT on the ordinance.

  • "It's a work in progress."
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