- The Washington Times - Friday, March 7, 2003

Virginia residents will soon get some relief from the dangerous potholes that have popped up on roads throughout the state because Gov. Mark Warner has directed road crews to immediately begin emergency repair work.
"Over the next two weeks, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we are going to have crews out to repair these potholes," Mr. Warner, a Democrat, said during a visit to Old Town Alexandria yesterday.
The "pothole blitz" began yesterday morning and will end March 20. While it will not get to every pothole, the program is aimed at repairing the worst potholes around the state.
Meanwhile, highway officials in Maryland said they will continue to repair potholes on a daily basis, like they have been since last month's snowstorm.
"Pothole repair is a part of our day-to-day operation and we do have a hot line that residents can call to report potholes," said Lora Rakowski, spokeswoman for the Maryland State Highway Administration. "We try to get to them as soon as possible."
A spokeswoman for Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said she was not aware of any plans for the Republican governor to announce a similar "pothole blitz" to fix the craters on Maryland roads.
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.
The Virginia Department of Transportation already has exceeded its snow removal and emergency budget. The agency budgeted $48 million for snow removal and $16 million for emergencies such as flooding. VDOT estimates that snow removal and flood repairs will cost more than $140 million, money which will come from its maintenance budget.
Yesterday, Mr. Warner estimated that the cost of the emergency road maintenance would be $22 million. Virginia currently faces a $2.1 billion budget shortfall, but Mr. Warner said the money needed to fix the potholes would come from other road-improvement projects.
"The alternative of doing nothing is not acceptable," he said. "What it may end up in resulting is that come summer the medians might not be mowed as often. But given the choice of one of those basketball-size potholes or a little more scruffy roadside during the summer, the choice is clear."
VDOT officials said routine maintenance work such as mowing, tree trimming and ditch clearing will be delayed in order to help cover the cost of fixing the potholes. Repaving projects, however, will continue as scheduled.
In order to complete the program during the next two weeks, VDOT will have to hire contract employees who will work around the clock to get the situation under control. The top priority will be main roads.
While the program is statewide, Mr. Warner said much of the repairs will focus on Northern Virginia, since the area was the worst hit by the storms. "We had the most amount of snow here. I've seen potholes that look like the car could fall into, that need to be repaired," he said.
The program, however, will not be a permanent fix to the problem.
The holes will be filled with a temporary cold mix that will last until midspring. At that time, the roads will go through the usual repaving process, which will make the repairs to the potholes permanent, Mr. Warner said.
Virginia residents can call 800/367-ROAD, or log on to https://virginiadot.org to report potholes. Maryland residents can call 800/323-6472.

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