Hairston: ‘Weather permitting,’ DWM road work ‘should be done next week’

Rising temperatures Friday meant construction workers could resume work on the streets that had been under repair for several months. Freshly poured concrete means progress for this stretch of Hyde Park Boulevard between 55th and 56th streets. (Photo by Spencer Bibbs)

Staff Writer

Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) said the long-delayed Department of Water Management work centered around 54th Street and Blackstone and Harper avenues, which began in June, may be completed next week, weather permitting, with final milling and paving work.

Never one to shy away from charging inconsistent delivery of city services in her ward compared to elsewhere in the city, Hairston rejected the notion that the delays could be blamed on Chicago’s longstanding neglect of the South Side.

“I don’t think this is a difference between the North Side and the South Side in this instance,” she said. “That is why my office has had regular meetings with the water departments, so people can be informed.” She said her office is emailing a weekly update to residents in the construction-affected area.

Delays began because ComEd, the electric utility, had to relocate a duct, because electric lines cannot be located by sewer lines, per regulation. The work was planned with the city’s antiquated blueprints, which required a move of 23 feet instead of the originally planned 15. The Office of Underground Coordination, an agency within the Chicago Department of Transportation, took two weeks to review. Moving the ComEd duct took seven weeks.

New curbs at 54th Street and Harper Avenue show the progress construction workers accomplished in the last two days of warmer weather. (Photo by Aaron Gettinger)

Further delays occurred because of a gas leak, which had to be fixed and required inspecting the rest of the line for possible leaks, and because of inclement weather in November.

Hairston said it is unlikely that there would be a penalty on Benchmark Construction, the DWM contractor, for the delays because of unforeseen circumstances clauses in city contracts.

In October, DWM and Benchmark representatives predicted the work would be done by Thanksgiving. Residents have long complained about parking restrictions, dust and the slow pace of work on the project.

“I know it’s frustrating,” Hairston said.