- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 5, 2003

The District's new road-patching trucks can't keep up with the number of potholes quickly forming around the city, road crews said yesterday.
The Pro-Patch Pothole Patcher trucks were delivered in December and are seeing their first significant action, patching hundreds of potholes after a series of snowfalls and rainstorms in recent weeks saturated the ground, and combined with cycles of freezing and thawing to erode city streets.
"This winter has really been a pretty dramatic winter," said Robert Marsili, the D.C. Department of Transportation's chief of bridge and street maintenance. "We haven't had a bad winter in a couple years, so what we're seeing is the accumulation of a couple of years."
Mr. Marsili set out a three-pronged approach to the city's "all-out blitz on potholes." He said the first step is to respond to residents' complaints.
He said there were about 400 complaints to the citywide call center Saturday, Sunday and Monday reporting potholes, far more than the average of 10 reports per day. Nevertheless, he said, the department is meeting its goal of patching potholes within 72 hours of receiving a complaint.
He said the second step is to make repairs as crews observe damaged roads in the neighborhoods they are called into.
The third step is to send the Pro-Patch trucks through the main arteries of the city to do repairs. The truck crews can work faster, patch larger holes and make more permanent repairs.
The city 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.
The trucks are custom built for pothole filling. They hold pressurized jackhammers and tampers, which allow crews to cut square holes around potholes, and tamp the filler mix down to be level with existing pavement.
"What you have is a one-truck show," said Frank Pacifico, deputy chief of the street and bridge maintenance division. "We're able to do a real permanent repair as opposed to just a 'throw and go,' where in six months we'll have to come back and refill this thing."
Mr. Marsili said part of the aggressive approach is to "fight this stereotype where the District has been known for potholes."
"We want to change that," he said. "That's what the public wants. That's what we want."
n June 2002, Mayor Anthony A. Williams kicked off an $85 million citywide resurfacing project.
Money for the project came from $155 million in federal funds that were earmarked for the Barney Circle Freeway, which was canceled because of opposition from city residents.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, persuaded Congress to redirect the funds to other city projects, including $70 million for neighborhood street projects and $15 million to refurbish the Anacostia Freeway.
The city has used $70 million to maintain 75 miles of roads leading in and out of the city, including New York and Connecticut avenues, and the Suitland Parkway.
The resurfacing projects were an extension of $22 million in improvements to 1,500 blocks of neighborhood streets during the past two years.
Roland Thompson, a crew chief working on 55th Street and Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue in Northeast yesterday, said he has spent 20 years patching streets and was happy to see that the city has made a commitment to changing its reputation for neglected streets.
"It's just time we got a dollar to do a dollar's job," said Roland Thompson, 47. "Too many times in the past we've gotten 50 cents to do a $10 job."
During one stretch last week in the Pro-Patch truck, Mr. Thompson said, his crew patched 75 holes in one hour on Florida Avenue between Vermont Avenue and W Street NW.
"It's an effective operation. That's what makes the difference to me," Mr. Thompson said. "We're on top of this. We did 250 potholes last night, this truck alone."
Mr. Marsili said it is likely to take the better part of this week to fill in the potholes left behind from the snowstorms but that with spring on the way, he expects his division to stay busy.
People should call the city at 202/727-1000 to report potholes, Mr. Marsili said.

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