Prov: Tougher to fix potholes this year

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — While potholes are peppering Providence roadways, it’s proving to be tougher than expected for crews to smooth things over — and they figure the fast changes in weather are to blame.

The grating of shovels has become a common sound on Valley Street the past couple of days. Crews for the Providence Department of Public Works have spent countless hours filling up dozens of potholes.

The acting director of the Providence DPW, Bill Bombard, says it’s an exceptionally terrible year for potholes, worse than previous years. The exceptionally harsh winter weather is to blame, because of “the frequent freeze-thaw cycles that we’ve experienced,” he said. “The warm weather, followed by cold weather, exacerbates the problem with potholes.”

Thaw, and water seeps into cracks in the ground. Freeze, and the water expands, pulling the ground cover and asphalt apart and breaking it to bits.

The city says 110 potholes have been reported since the beginning of November 2013. And that’s just the ones that have been reported; plenty aren’t on the books. The DPW tries to take care of and clear the requests within 48 hours, but the storms have put them behind.

“There seems to be an awful lot in this recent cold snap that we’ve had, where we’ve seen more potholes,” says Bombard. “I don’t know where we stand as far as timeline to getting these all done, but we’re doing the best we can with the resources we have.”

Those resources include a cold mix or a high-performance patch material. Ideally, a hot mix would work better, but they don’t have access to that during the winter months.

“It is not the perfect solution; it is not the panacea to the problem. It doesn’t always perform as well. The cold weather doesn’t help it at all,” says Bombard.

He figures the DPW has used 30 to 40 percent more of the materials this season than in past years.

Providence pothole stats

These statistics were compiled by city clerk Anna Stetson for WPRI.com.

Total number of pothole claims filed in 2011: 523
Total number of pothole claims filed in 2012: 92
Total number of pothole claims filed in 2013: 308
Number of pothole claims filed so far in 2014: 180

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