- The Washington Times - Monday, February 19, 2007

Road crews across the region prepared yesterday for a busy pothole season as higher temperatures are expected to thaw streets crumbled by weeks of ice, snow and subfreezing weather.

“It’s the busiest time of the year for potholes,” said Erik Linden, spokesman for the District Department of Transportation.

The National Weather Service expects temperatures to reach the high 40s today, then climb into the 50s the rest of the week.

Potholes form after rain or melted snow seeps into roads, then freezes. The ice expands and splits the pavement, and the cracks get larger as vehicles drive over them, eventually creating potentially teeth-clenching, axle-bending potholes.

The city’s transportation department, which covers 1,100 miles of road, has received only a few reports of potholes, but officials expect that to change soon.

“Traditionally, what we’ll see in the next few weeks after the cold weather starts to let up and warmer weather descends upon us is the advent of more potholes,” Mr. Linden said.

The city receives thousands of reports about potholes each year, including 9,000 in 2003.

Among the first, albeit unofficial, reports came yesterday from Bill Taborn, who lives on M Street Northeast.

“You go down Benning Road, and there’s like 20 of them,” said Mr. Taborn, 52.

Mr. Linden said the department’s goal is to fill a pothole within 48 hours.

“Our teams will be out aggressively searching,” he said.

Mr. Linden urged residents to report potholes, saying, “Don’t assume your neighbor may have called.”

In 2003, the department began using four Pro-Patch pothole-filling trucks, which cost about $100,000 each.

David Buck, a spokesman for the Maryland State Highway Administration, said potholes are a problem everywhere north of Florida, but this region is among of the worst on the East Coast because of the extreme temperature fluctuations.

“Those conditions are brutal for pavement,” he said. “We really do get both ends of the spectrum here.”

He also said few pothole reports have been made so far, but crews are prepared to fix them, along the 16,000 miles of road the agency covers.

The few complaints can be attributed to a relatively mild winter or at least until February arrived with single-digit temperatures and a recent ice storm.

The average temperature in December at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport was roughly 44 degrees, five degrees above normal, and nearly 41 degrees in January, about six degrees above normal, according to the Weather Service.

So far in February, the average temperature has been 26.6 degrees, about 10 degrees below normal.

“When it’s so cold, the best you can do is put a cold patch in because we’ll just have the same cycle to go through,” Mr. Buck said. “We’re still going to have plenty of days with temperatures in the 30s.”

Officials said crews use the temporary asphalt patches until permanent ones can be applied in the relative warmth of March.

In 2004, snowstorms caused so many potholes in Virginia that former Gov. Mark Warner declared a statewide “pothole blitz,” during which crews filled 95,000 potholes on 57,000 miles of road over a two-week period. State officials could not be reached yesterday for comment.

“The District itself is alright,” Scott Lempert of Philadelphia said last night at a Hess gas station on New York Avenue Northeast. “But the access roads are wretched.”

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