Potholes: New push to fix them

PennDOT has stepped its road repairs because of the warmer weather

You’ve seen them, felt them, had your bones rattled by them, and maybe even had your car and wallet pay the price.

Potholes have proliferated this woeful winter, which has been setting records for six-inch snowfalls, outages, salt use and, according to AAA, vehicle breakdowns.  

PennDOT has stepped up its war on craters and crevices in state highways, taking advantage of a few days with warmer weather.

Temperatures above 40 degrees allow for permanent repairs with hot asphalt, instead of temporary fixes with a material called “cold patch,” according to District 6-0 executive Lester C. Toaso.

“We have been filling potholes since their premature outbreak in early January whenever crews have not been responding to the steady string of snow and ice storms in the region,” Toaso said. “...  Unfortunately, the harsh winter season undid many of these patches, but we will work aggressively to make permanent repairs.”

Forty PennDOT crews were out repairing roads Thursday, but even in January and earlier this month, thirty or more crews were often working - when they could, according to spokesman Eugene Blaum.

The city has already filled about four thousand potholes this year, more than double the number at this time last year, according to the Streets Department.

“The severity of this winter has caused potholes to form at a record breaking pace,” according to a department statement. “... We will be aggressively locating and repairing potholes over the next several weeks. The public can help with this effort by reporting pothole locations to 311.”

A street-repair request can also be filled out online.

Each New Jersey county has its own pothole hotline, according to a state Transportation Department list.

More than 6,000 tire-related service requests were received just this month, as of Wednesday, according to AAA Midlantic, which set a record in January with 222,000 roadside emergency cases in its territory, from Virginia to New Jersey.

This might be PennDOT's worst season for potholes and pavement damage since the 1990s, said Blaum.

Last year PennDOT used about a thousand tons of patching material by about this time, and this year is roughly doubling that pace, he said.

Don’t blame salt and plowing for potholes, Blaum said. Salt may actual mitigate the real cause: Water leaking into cracks, then expanding as it freezes.

Some of the plows even have rubber tips, he said.

Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@philly.com.