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City expects typical year for potholes

BY CHRIS HIGGINS | MARCH 14, 2014 5:00 AM

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The sun is shining, snow is melting, and Iowa City residents are driving over the newly revealed potholes.

City officials predict workers will need to fill around 3,500 potholes as the weather continues to change. Three crews of two workers travel around the city every day to fill 200 to 300 of them, which John Sobaski, the city’s assistant superintendent of streets, said is seasonally average.

“I think we’re keeping up … this is pretty common,” he said. “It’s amazing how quickly they tally up.”
He also said the department has no budgetary concerns as the transition into spring continues.

Potholes form when water under pavement freezes and expands, causing the pavement to crack and fill with liquid as ice thaws. Workers use asphalt every day to fill the potholes, but persistent water has made the job more difficult.

“Snowmelt and running water make it harder to hold material in these voids,” Sobaski said. “We’re unsure it’s going to stick.”

Sobaski said department workers use cones and detours to prevent drivers from riding over potholes.

Bob Younie, a maintenance engineer at the state Department of Transportation, was surprised city officials expect a typical year in terms of potholes. He predicts there will be a greater number of potholes statewide after the frigid winter.

“Potholes really are a combination of roads wearing out and Mother Nature doing more freeze and thaw cycles,” he said. “I predict there will be more potholes, because what I see are more freeze and thaw cycles and our roads getting older.”

Sobaski said the department has been having a lot of trouble with the area near the intersection of Park Road and North Dubuque Street because of heavy construction, university traffic, and the age of the road. He also noted West Benton Street and Muscatine Avenue as problem areas.

Cambus Director Brian McClatchey said Park Road is a particular concern for bus drivers as well, but said the city responded to it in a timely manner.

He described potholes an “annual annoyance” with some differences this year.

“The difference for this year is that there are more of them,” he said. “There are more that are severe than is typical. We’ve had a few more large potholes than we typically have.”

However, McClatchey said, he was pleased with the way the city has handled the issue in general.

“The city’s done a pretty good job on getting them filled,” he said.


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