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The Cost of Not Putting a Finger in the Dike

For most of the last decade, Chicagoans who worked in the Loop, the booming downtown business district, could easily ignore the city’s budget crisis; Washington’s cutback of aid to cities didn’t seem to hurt business. Last week, they learned one price of neglecting the underpinnings of all that economic growth. A quarter billion gallons of murky Chicago River water gushed into a 60-mile network of turn-of-the-century freight tunnels under the Loop and brought nearly all businesses to a soggy halt. It turned out that a top city official had known about the leak, but, acting for a cash-strapped government, had delayed repairs costing only about $50,000. The final cost of the damage could run higher than $1 billion.

U.S. News & World Report, April 27, 1992