Pothole Season

City asks drivers to report potholes to speed street repairs

by Frank DeLoache

Kenneth Williams and Michael Dunn fill a pothole on Pointer Ridge Drive in the Catawba River Plantation neighborhood on Monday, Feb. 7.

The cavalry arrived Monday morning, Feb. 7, with the hot-asphalt truck on Pointer Ridge Drive, one of the busy internal roads in the Catawba River Plantation community.

In about 45 minutes, the two-man crew of Kenneth Williams and Michael Dunn from the Charlotte Department of Transportation had filled the pothole, which had grown into a deep bowl the size of a dinner plate, very capable of damaging a tire.

Three “patch crews” operating hot-asphalt trucks patrol the city’s northwest division, which stretches from Interstate 77 east to Wilkinson Boulevard and includes the center-city area. They respond as quickly as possible to drivers who call about potholes, and early this week, the calls were picking up for crews in the northwest division, said Tony Bartlett, street maintenance supervisor for the northwest division.

After plugging the hole on Pointer Ridge Drive, Williams and Dunn headed to a pothole nearby in the 1600 block of Bray Drive in the Brookmere community.

Bartlett knows the calls will continue to increase with the temperature. In fact, a news release from the city last week declared: “Pothole Season Begins.”

“They start popping out with the flowers,” said Ray DeGreeff, supervisor of the city’s southern division. During the winter, rain, snow and ice seep into the pavement, freeze and expand again and again. Once the temperature starts to rise, the ice melts and no longer supports the pavement, causing a depression and cracks in the pavement. Eventually, as more cars run over the damaged area, pieces come out and the pothole forms.

“There are still quite a few out there,” Bartlett said Monday. “We have had several calls. It’s spread all over the division.”

Bartlett’s crews spend most of their time patching residential streets, rather than busy thoroughfares, partly because most of the 2,300 miles of “centerline streets” the city maintains are community roadways.

“Personally, I feel like our heavier traveled streets are in better shape because of the traffic on them and the extra attention they get,” Bartlett said.

The city learns about most potholes from drivers who call 311, and that’s why Charlotte transportation officials are making a point of asking drivers for help in spotting potholes.

“We can’t be everywhere, and we need the people to help us and be our eyes to identify the problems,” DeGreeff said. “The last thing we want is for Charlotte residents to be frustrated with their roads. So when they see a problem, call. Don’t be cussing us. Call us.”

In recent weeks, Bartlett said, northwest division patch crews have repaired potholes on Tom Sadler Road near Gum Branch Road, several on Oakdale Road at Brookshire Boulevard, and some on Central Avenue at the Plaza, Martin Luther King Boulevard at McDowell Street, Monument Street at Wilkinson Boulevard, Wilson Glen Drive at Sam Wilson Road and Fifth Street at Graham Street.

City road maintenance crews generally divide potholes into two categories:

• Emergency potholes, in which a driver reports the hole has damaged his or her car or is potentially dangerous to traffic. Road crews will inspect the pothole within three hours – often times blocking off the site if the hole presents a hazard – and fill the hole within 24 hours.

• Non-emergency potholes, usually where one layer of pavement has popped out. The city’s service standard calls for inspecting those potholes within five days and patching them within 10.

But patch crews usually respond much sooner, DeGreeff said. “Mr. (Layton) Lamb (head of street maintenance for the entire city) wants us to get on them faster than that,” he added.
So far this year, city crews have.

The department repaired approximately 900 potholes from July 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, at a cost of about $200 each. Since July 1, 2010, through the first week in February, the department had filled 378 potholes. But the majority of calls will come in the next few months.

Drivers also should keep in mind that some main Charlotte thoroughfares are maintained by the N.C. Department of Transportation, not the city, including Bellhaven Boulevard, Valleydale Road and Mount Holly Road. But drivers should still call 311 to report any pothole.

Mountain Island Weekly Editor Andrew Batten contributed to this article.

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