- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003

D.C. Public Works crews have been using the city's new do-it-all patcher trucks for the past three weeks to keep up with potholes brought on by the coldest winters in several years.

"These machines enable us to do some really good fundamental repairs," said Robert Marsili, the city's chief of bridge and street maintenance. Mr. Marsili watched yesterday as a three-person crew fixed a pothole at the corner of Connecticut and Cathedral avenues in Northwest.

The repair took about 15 minutes. Mr. Marsili said the biggest change is that the new trucks greatly improve the quality of repairs.

He said repairs made using the new trucks should last longer for several reasons. Most important is that the back of the truck holds a large hopper, which allows crews to keep the hot asphalt mix at 325 degrees to 350 degrees and the cold asphalt mix warm, making both more suitable for pressing into potholes..

"The key is," he said, pointing to the finished patch at Connecticut and Cathedral, "that's going to stay there."

The new trucks are custom built for pothole filling. They hold pressurized jackhammers and tampers, which allow crews to cut square holes around potholes, then tamp the filler mix down to be level with existing pavement.

"It's very efficient," said Tamarcus Jones, 23, one of the city workers doing repairs.

The Department of Transportation purchased four Pro-Patch trucks last year for about $100,000 each and assigned each truck to cover two wards. Crews using older equipment supplement the new trucks, with six workers assigned to each ward.

Using the new trucks reduces from three to one the number of vehicles needed by a pothole crew, because each truck carries all the necessary equipment, a full crew of three workers and has a traffic-direction light on the back.

Mr. Marsili said he believes that the District's 600 miles of roads will stop being a nightmare for drivers because of the new machinery.

"We might be turning a corner here. We might be getting a handle on things. These trucks are going to help a lot," he said.

Mr. Marsili has said that before he arrived in the District two years ago, after 22 years as chief of road maintenance in Baltimore, the D.C. government's commitment to road maintenance was subpar.

When he took over in February 2001, there were 45 city employees assigned to street maintenance. These crews are responsible for clearing the streets of snow in addition to repairing potholes. Under Mr. Marsili, the work force has nearly doubled, to 85, and the budget has increased from $1.5 million to $2.5 million, Department of Transportation spokesman Bill Rice said.

The trucks have had a positive impact on the psyches of transportation workers as well. Roland Thompson, 47, said he has worried about the safety of his job because the city is in the midst of a budget deficit.

"When they buy equipment like this, it says to me that maybe we have a future," Mr. Thompson said.

Mr. Marsili said drivers should call the city at 202/727-1000 to report potholes.

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