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Mid-Mo winter weather keeps pothole-patching crews busy

Mid-Mo winter weather keeps pothole-patching crews busy

February 15th, 2019 by Jeff Haldiman in Local News

MoDOT crew members Blake Lamberson, left, and Ryan Koening fill a pot hole Thursday, Feb. 14, 2019, on the U.S. 50 exit to downtown Jefferson City.

Photo by Sally Ince /News Tribune.

This year's continuing bouts of winter weather have hindered progress for crews working to fix potholes, according to a Thursday news release from the Missouri Department of Transportation.

"It's standard procedure to begin pothole repair in the spring, but due to this aggressive winter season, maintenance crews are already out repairing roads to keep them safe and smooth," Becky Allmeroth, MoDOT chief safety and operations officer and state maintenance engineer, said in the news release.

As many as 300 MoDOT pothole patching crews may be out working in the next few weeks.

Potholes form when temperatures warm up during the day but drop below freezing overnight. Rain and snow leave moisture that seeps into cracks and joints in the pavement. When temperatures drop, the water freezes and expands the pavement, causing it to bulge and crack. When cars drive over the bulging pavement, it eventually causes chunks of pavement to pop out.

MoDOT spends approximately $15 million a year on pothole patching, with the majority of that during March, according to the news release.

Locally, Cole County Public Works Director Larry Benz said they have been filling potholes as they find them.

"Our crews take note of potholes they find while they are out doing snow removal, and we'll get to them in between storms," Benz said. "We don't keep track of how many we do, but with the number we get called into the office, it's always a lot."

Public works officials in Jefferson City said they have one staff member designated to go around the city, five days a week, looking for potholes and filling them. After the recent extreme weather, additional personnel could go out if needed.

Jefferson City Public Works Director Matt Morasch said they forward pothole reports within the city directly to street supervisors so they can be addressed as quickly as possible.

With this year's freeze thaw cycle, he said, there have been "considerably more extensive and especially colder than we normally experience; therefore, we are experiencing many more potholes."

City crews have had to treat roads and/or plow snow during nine weather events this winter — nearing the all-time high (13 events in 2014) since Operations Division Director Britt Smith started tracking about 13 years ago, Morasch said.

"Further aggravating the issue is the material used to patch potholes at this time of year," Morasch said. "It is referred to as cold mix. This material does not work as well as the regular hot mix asphalt we can get in the warmer months. So the potholes filled with the cold mix tend to open back up as the winter progresses. This is especially true if we have to run a snow plow blade over cold mix. The filled pothole now becomes a pothole again."

To combat the issue, Morasch said, they have shifted staff from other duties to fill potholes.

"The bad news is more snow is forecasted for the weekend, so if the plow trucks are needed, they will likely open up some of the potholes just filled, and we will probably get some new ones as well," he said.

To report potholes in Jefferson City, call the city Public Works Department at 573-634-6410 or visit jeffersoncitymo.org.

To report potholes around Cole County, call the county Public Works Department at 573-634-3614.

To report the location of potholes on state-maintained roads, use the following tools:

Call MoDOT's 24/7 Customer Service Center at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (888-275-6636).

Use the Report a Road Concern form at modot.org.

Use a smartphone/tablet with a mobile-friendly form at modot.org/roadconcern.

Email concerns to comments@modot.mo.gov.