As the city's battle against Chicago's unending pothole problem rages on, Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein has added a new weapon to his arsenal: a "pothole killer" known as the PK 2000.
Manned by a single operator, the PK 2000 uses a telescopic arm to clean out, fill and seal potholes with an emulsion called “Patch Plus” that works in moist and freezing conditions. It can fix up to a hundred potholes a day, spending less than a minute on each. The repairs are permanent and do not require road closures to be completed.
The city has leased four trucks at a cost of $50,000 a month for a trial period, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
Klein had success with this technology while working as transportation commissioner in Washington, D.C., and plans to expand the program if the PK 2000 proves to be an improvement. The current pothole-fixing protocol dispatches three- or four-person crews to fill and smooth holes by hand using patching materials transported by truck. Using this method, the Department of Transportation has filled 450,000 potholes this year, 20,000 more than in all of 2010, the Sun-Times reports. The especially harsh winter, however, left the city with about 20,000 more potholes than the year prior, NBC Chicago reports.
Many have been hesitant to embrace this new technology after a similar pilot program in 2008 had disastrous results.
“The gravel blew out of the machine and projected out. You couldn’t use it with people on the street. It damaged vehicles. . . . People had to clean up after it. It was just a mess,” Lou Phillips, business manager of Laborers Union Local 1001, told the Sun-Times.
But Klein is confident in the PK 2000 technology, which is currently in use in Virginia, Washington D.C. and New Jersey. New Jersey transportation officials called the six trucks they leased in April “a godsend,” cutting a 15- to 30-minute job down to about a minute and protecting workers perched safely inside the truck, the Star-Ledger reports. When the contract was signed, the state averaged 6,200 construction zone crashes per year.
Klein insists that the addition of a mechanical workforce will not shrink city employment opportunities.
Watch the Pothole Killer in action: