Local officials described 2014 as an exceptional year for potholes so far, which has meant bad news for drivers and for city and county crews that have been working this month to fill them.
For Springfield and Clark County, it’s meant long hours for workers, who have had to fix local roads earlier and more often so far this year compared to 2013. For some area drivers, it’s meant expensive repairs that can cost hundreds of dollars.
Springfield does not keep track of the number of potholes it responds to and repairs, but it’s clear there are far more this winter than there have been in recent years, said Chris Moore, city service director. The potholes are caused when water enters a crack in the pavement. As the water freezes and thaws it expands, cracking the pavement further and allowing more water to seep in.
In addition, the number and size of the potholes has meant city workers have been making repairs earlier than ever, Moore said. The city prioritizes which potholes to repair based on several factors, including the hazard they pose to drivers and the volume of traffic on the road. For example, a pothole at a major intersection is likely to be fixed more quickly than a pothole on a residential street.
Typically, city workers simply patch the potholes until spring arrives. But this year they have been making more permanent repairs in areas including portions of Limestone Street, hoping it will mean those portions of the road will be in better shape for the rest of the year.
“We have a good window of weather right now, and we see the opportunity to eliminate the problem,” Moore said.
Brian House, owner of Custom Tire, 126 Linden Ave., said pothole damage is worse than usual.
“We have pothole visits every year, but the severity of the damage to some of the tires and wheels is probably more extensive this year than in the past,” House said.
The damage can be moderate if simple repairs to the wheel or a new tire are needed, or more costly if the main body of the wheel sustains significant damage, House said. Wheels on many newer models can cost as much as $600, with additional costs to purchase a new tire.
Pothole repairs have meant more overtime for those on city work crews, who have been working around the clock to make the repairs. However, it’s tough to determine the effect on the budget because it may mean the same work isn’t required later this year.
“Plus or minus a couple hours, we’ve had crews working on potholes around the clock since Saturday morning,” Moore said.
Because of the severity of the winter overall, Clark County Engineer Jonathan Burr estimated his office has already spent twice as much on overtime for workers compared to the same time last year. That will mean fewer resources are available later this year, he said.
“With the money we’ve had to spend on overtime, material, fuel and plowing snow, my resources are going to be diminished by that amount,” Burr said.
Some area auto repair businesses said that, while they have not necessarily seen an increase in business due to the potholes, repairs can be costly. New rims, for example, can cost between $300 and $500, said Gary Hayes, service director at the Jeff Wyler Auto Mall, 1501 Hillcrest Ave., in Springfield.
Both Hayes and House noted that one reason vehicles seem to suffer more damage is the tires themselves.
“In recent years, the automobile manufacturers have been putting on most vehicles, even light trucks and SUVs, low-profile high performance tires,” House said.”What that means is you have a shorter sidewall and a larger tire.”
That makes the tire more susceptible to pothole damage, he said.
The Springfield News-Sun is committed to covering the topics that affect readers most, including transportation and safety. For this story, the newspaper contacted city and county officials as well as several businesses to put this year’s road conditions in context.