- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The combination of deep snow, freezing temperatures and snowplows raking over streets has kept road crews in the Washington area filling hundreds of potholes in the past few days.
Road maintenance crews are working around the clock to fix the potholes, most of which have popped up on secondary streets, such as Shady Grove Road in Montgomery County and Glebe Road in Arlington.
Streets in the District are so pockmarked after the storm last week that crews began fixing the holes before they finished clearing the snow, said Bill Rice, a spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation. Many D.C. side streets were never plowed.
Road officials said yesterday that their goal is to patch the potholes within 24 to 72 hours after a report has been filed.
"We have crews working around the clock," said Ryan Hall, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).
Officials in most area jurisdictions are encouraging drivers to report some of the worst road problems related to the bad weather. Some of the potholes have been damaging wheels, tires, and alignments, particularly on smaller cars.
The mid-Atlantic chapter of AAA, the advocacy group for motorists, has been keeping track of the worst pothole spots in the region. The association began a contest urging people to e-mail nominations for the worst potholes.
The spots leading the nominations yesterday were Interstate 395 at the 14 Street Bridge; Pennsylvania Avenue at Sixth Street SE; East-West Highway at Connecticut Av- enue in Chevy Chase; and Shady Grove Road, east of Interstate 270, just north of Rockville.
"We'll collect the information and then pass it along to government agencies charged with repairing potholes," said Lon Anderson, a AAA spokesman. The e-mail address is [email protected]
As of yesterday, area officials could not estimate the cost of pothole repairs.
"I don't think that we have exceeded our [budget]," said Robert Marsili, chief of the District's street and bridge maintenance division. "We've got improvements to make, and we're making them."
VDOT has 17 crews working in Northern Virginia that are trained to repair the holes. They work on secondary roads during the days and on highways such as Interstate 66 or Interstate 95 at night, Mr. Hall said.
Mr. Rice said eight crews in the District have made good progress on patching up the potholes. He also said the D.C. Department of Public Works has four special pothole-fixing trucks estimated at $100,000 apiece that make more durable repairs, ones that are most likely to withstand warm weather.
The trucks have hoppers of fluid asphalt, which is heated up to 350 degrees. The machines hold pressurized jackhammers and tampers, which allow the crews to cut square holes around the potholes, then tamp the filler asphalt mix down to be level with the existing pavement.
The trucks repaired more than 300 potholes during the past two days, Mr. Rice said. One of the biggest holes was on Interstate 295 near Benning Road in Northeast and required several hours to fill and fix, Mr. Rice said.
Crews in Montgomery County have two similar trucks that are expected to make lasting repairs, said Tom Orr, chief of field operations for the county's highway department. One-man crews in pickup trucks use a cold mix for quick repairs that don't last as long, he said.
In neighboring Prince George's County, 10 crews working through the night filled about 100 holes yesterday, said Rob Tolley, chief of the county's road maintenance and construction division. "Potholes are appearing all over the place," he said.
Potholes develop after melted snow or rain seeps into cracks in and under roads, then low temperatures turn the water into ice, which expands and splits the pavement. The cracks get bigger as cars and trucks drive over the road, and eventually form a pothole.
"It's happening pretty much throughout the state," said Kellie Boulware, a spokeswoman for Maryland's highway department. "We've had a pretty harsh winter."
Randy Bartlett, director of the water, sewer and streets division in Arlington County, agreed: "The conditions this year are just perfect for potholes."
Potholes form more quickly on roads that crews are resurfacing, Mr. Orr said. That has been the problem on Shady Grove Road and at Randolph Road between Georgia and New Hampshire avenues, where traffic has been slow this week, he said.
The pothole crews are made up of many of the same people who helped plow roads in the past week. They could be pulled from pothole duty sometime today as the region braces for the possibility of another round of winter weather. The National Weather Service said the Washington area is expected to get about an inch of snow by tonight.
"The new snowfall that is predicted [for today and tomorrow] is going to back us up again," Mr. Orr said. "We react to all pothole reports. Our goal is to jump on them as quickly as possible."
But, highway officials warned, more potholes will develop when the warm spring weather softens the firm soil and the new asphalt patches.
"They're going to get a lot worse," Mr. Bartlett said. "There is not a whole lot we can do until it dries off."


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