City streets going to pot
Nothing tends to top off a bad day more than running over a pothole and busting a tire.
As the winter slowly makes its way into spring, this is the time of year when drivers need to pay extra attention to the giant cracks in the pavement — and avoid an expensive headache.
The city also wants residents to know it’s aware of the problem and is doing what it can to fix as many of the pesky potholes as possible.
“This is the type of weather where potholes breed,” said Jim McNeely, the city’s streets and internal services manager, adding it’s not unusual for this time of year.
He said when the city isn’t plowing snow, it has two dedicated crews working around the clock to fix them.
In some cases, crews have had to fill the same pothole several times in a day just to keep up.
The problem is a freeze-thaw scenario where, during the day, the ice and snow melt, getting into small cracks on the road surface.
Overnight freezing expands and then pops out the asphalt.
The city uses a material called cold mix — or cold asphalt — to make the repairs, but it’s water soluble and doesn’t work as well when it gets wet.
The city also uses an asphalt-recycling machine that fills a hole with a hot version of the material and can be effective for a few days.
McNeely noted the pothole problem tends to disappear when conditions dry up.
In the meantime, he recommends drivers slow down and avoid puddles because a hole could be lurking under the water.
Officials also recommend motorists call the city to report any potholes they may encounter.
Last year, the city got off easy, as the dry winter cut down on the number of potholes crews had to fill.
The cost of the pothole repairs is part of the city’s overall winter-operating budget, which is set at $1.6 million this year.