- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 3, 2004

This is one killer you want on the streets.

Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials yesterday introduced their newest weapon in the war on those nerve-jarring craters blighting the roads of the commonwealth. Dubbed the “Pothole Killer,” it holds the promise of filling more than 100 holes per day with what VDOT promises will be a quicker, better patch.

In many ways it looks like a regular truck — but it has one obvious difference. An armlike device sticks out about nine feet in front and pours a hot asphalt mix, followed by dry rock. During a demonstration, it took barely a minute to fill each hole. Within 15 minutes, the mix was dry and ready for traffic.

“It makes permanent patches during the winter months,” VDOT spokesman Ryan Hall said at yesterday’s demonstration in Chantilly. Under the more traditional system, crews “have bags of asphalt that they plop in a hole and compact it. We had rains [Tuesday] that popped many of those potholes back up.”

“It gives us a more beneficial product on the road and extends the life of pavement,” said VDOT maintenance manager Todd Robson.

VDOT has contracted with Patch Management Inc. of Morrisville, Pa., to test the machine on Northern Virginia roads for 600 hours, at a cost of $165 per hour, which includes the driver, the materials and maintenance. The company promises that the machine can be operated day and night in any kind of weather and works for two days before the materials have to be refilled.

“They also have one in Anchorage, Alaska, where it’s actually patching potholes where the actual temperature is 17 below zero,” Mr. Hall said. “If it’s working up there in those type of temperatures, it should definitely be able to work here for us in Northern Virginia.”

The test should last about six weeks in a region where Mr. Hall said secondary roads carry more traffic than interstate highways in the southern part of the state. The Pothole Killer will be working on main roads including the Fairfax County Parkway, the Dulles Toll Road and Routes 7 and 28, along with subdivisions. It won’t be used on the interstates for the time being.

“Our crews were busy right after the last ice storm filling 200 potholes a day for about three weeks. Now we’re just hitting where residents are calling and pointing them out,” Mr. Hall said.

“It’s a lot better than shoveling, I can tell you that,” said Robert Lowe, a VDOT road worker and 12-year veteran who has been using the machine this week. Mr. Lowe said they were filling “a lot more” potholes with the machine than by hand. Still, there is no such thing as a cure-all.

“There’s always going to be potholes,” Mr. Lowe said.

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