Spring puts street crews on patch patrol

Spring puts street crews on patch patrol

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— Some call it mud season, some call it the first days of spring. For Ron Berig and the workers at the city's Public Works Shop, it is pothole season.

Potholes have not been as big a problem this year as in years past, said Berig, the shop's assistant superintendent. That may be because the city did its best last summer to prepare for the spring thaw and the cracks that usually occur in the pavement. After dealing with the potholes from 2000 in a temporary manner with a "cold mix" of asphalt last spring, the department went back in last summer with hot asphalt and filled the holes more thoroughly and permanently.

Potholes are formed when a depression in the pavement such as a wheel rut allows water to collect on a road. During the winter, the water freezes in the crack and expands, opening up the crack or hole even further. Come spring, those holes and ruts, aggravated by wheels rolling over and through them, can grow big enough to cause accidents.

Bob Logan of Bob's Downtown Conoco said cars are brought into his shop, sometimes on the back of tow trucks, after their tires get blown out or suspensions are damaged in potholes. The extent of the damage varies depending on the size of the pothole, he said.

"If a hole is big enough for a Volkswagen to put in it, you're going to see problems," he said wryly.

When the temperature is still below freezing and the asphalt companies have not yet begun making hot pourable asphalt, the city puts the "cold mix," which contains more oil than normal mixes of asphalt, into the holes, plugging them up temporarily. Cold mix is made up of clumps of asphalt that can be compacted into holes.

Cold mix, however, often gets "popped" out of the potholes when the city experiences moist weather, meaning public works employees have to continually replug holes they have already smoothed over, Berig said.

Once hot asphalt comes on the market, the city begins making more permanent repairs to the streets. If a street is considered extremely problematic, the city will overlay the entire area, Berig said. The city spends about $300,000 every year to overlay the city's streets.

Potholes can often be fixed in 10 to 15 minutes, but if the street has to be blocked off, it can take a lot longer, Berig said.

Lincoln Avenue, however, is not one of the streets the city works on. Because the street is part of U.S. 40, it is the state's job to fix the potholes, although the city will help if needed, Berig said.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203

or e-mail asalzman@steamboatpilot.com

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