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Janesville public works crews swamped by reports of potholes

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Shelly Birkelo
March 22, 2013

— You can't drive anywhere on Janesville city streets without hitting a pothole.

"They're all over," said John Whitcomb, operations director for the city's public works division.

That's why the city is encouraging resident to report them.

"We can't fix them unless we are told about them," Whitcomb said, noting department crews make pothole repairs as they notice them.

While it might not be a record year for potholes this winter, it has been a banner year, Whitcomb said.

"I can tell you it's been an active reporting season," he said.

When employees aren't out plowing, many have been out patching holes, Whitcomb said.

Potholes are created as roads deteriorate as a result of the freeze/thaw action, which is why there are more potholes this winter.

"The more moisture you get along with those cold temperatures, the worse it gets," Whitcomb said.

The half-dozen plowing events that came with rain and were followed by temperatures in the teens or colder also resulted in potholes, he said.

"That really raises havoc with the street, particularly streets nearing the end of their useful life," he said. "That's why some of the biggest problems with potholes have been on the oldest sections of streets in the city."

Though the number of workers and trucks devoted to pothole repairs varies daily, "generally this season we've had our folks out every day and a few more here and there along the way when they'll work on potholes most of their day," Whitcomb said.

Numerous potholes already have been repaired, but some patches will have to be replaced during the warmer construction season.

Still, Whitcomb thinks his department's budget will be fine.

"We're probably in good shape," he said.

The first report of potholes started in February after one snow event in December and another at the end of January.

"But once it started to snow, it didn't stop," Whitcomb said. "So it was mid-February when we really started seeing the impact of all that moisture, cold and warming."

Whitcomb expects more potholes to surface.

"This will keep up now, off and on," he said. "As things begin to warm up, some patches will come loose and rain will loosen some up. So I expect we'll have another surge (of potholes) as we get into some warmer weather."

As temperatures begin to hold steady and the freeze/thaw action goes away, the number of potholes will start to dissipate, he said.

Potholes are simply a part of life in Wisconsin, which has lower temperatures, Whitcomb said.

"We've had this type of situation before with a banner crop of potholes," he said. "I suspect in the future we'll have another season like this.''



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