It’s pothole season: Tell officials where they are

After the jokes about potholes – like the one about a road cavity being so huge, a family of four was living in it – comes the serious business of repairing them.

That’s being done on both city and county roads as quickly as possible, following the Blizzard of 2018, which quickened the rate that cracks and crevices expanded into holes.

“Potholes are caused by ice and snow packed down by vehicles post-storm. We have been filling every pothole the moment we are aware of it. We have quick-repair equipment,” Mayor Jake Day said this week.

“We encourage people to log into the Citizen Services section of our Website or call us to let us know about any pothole they find. Now that the asphalt plants are reopening, we will be able to permanently repair them over the spring,” he said.

County residents can call the Roads Department at 410-548-4872. An answering service is available when the office is closed. Or, contact the County Executive’s office at 410-548-4801.

County Executive Bob Culver said freezing, thawing and weather conditions are certain to cause potholes. “As soon as the weather breaks, there will be a lot of paving needing to be done,” he said.

Before that, though, holes are being fixed using a hot box, explained Weston Young, assistant county administrator.

“One or two years ago, the county purchased a hot box. We get hot mix asphalt, the same stuff that is used to pave the road.  When they put it down it has to be at a certain temperature to keep it liquid and apply it. The box will keep it warm,” Young explained.

County workers try to address potholes the same day they are reported, he said.

“With a hot box, we can fix it in a day or two, unless it’s really cold and the asphalt plants are shut down. If they aren’t operating and we are out of pavement mix we can’t fix it. We try to keep some on hand,” Young said.

The county has $50,000 budgeted for pothole repair. In FY16, $59,000 was spent.

Also budgeted is $4.5 million for surface treatment. Of that amount, $2.5 million is for paving blacktop and $2 million is to tar and chip county roads and for slurry seal that coats roads and gives them an additional seven years of usage.

Bill Sterling, traffic superintendent for Salisbury, said the city also has a hot box and tries to repair potholes before complaints are called in.

“Once we get a complaint, that means it has gone too far. We want complaints to be our last resource,” he said.

On Monday and Tuesday this week, city workers repaired 78 potholes in Salisbury, including 11 water main breaks that caused holes, Sterling said, but the number isn’t drastically higher than usual.

“We try to do arterial streets first. We check those first because the traffic count on those streets is major,” he said.

Funding for repairs comes from the city’s $513,000 street maintenance budget for paving and street repairs.

Local resident Sue Jackson-Stein said she has noticed “a myriad of potholes around town” and praised local officials for quick responses.

“I’ve found people at the Wicomico County office and city very helpful and prompt and if I’m not sure of the proper agency, they forward my observation,” she said.

Agreeing, Young said roads crews look at every street in the county and check for fractures and gaps, whose likeliness depends on how the road was paved and the quality of the sub-base.

Breaks even occur on the runway at the airport, especially since the runway bears the weight of a plane, condensed down to its tires.

“Sometimes a root of a tree or a plant breaks through. Water goes in and it freezes and thaws. Over time the cracks form and get bigger,” Young said.

“That’s to be expected. We fix them as soon as we can.”

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Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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