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Friday, 03 April 2015 10:08

Pain In The Pothole

By | News

City, County Try To Catch Up On Road Patch Up

SARATOGA SPRINGS – Take it from a person in a position to know:


“This winter was definitely worse than last year, which happened to be the worst in a long time.” 


So stated Commissioner of Public Works for Saratoga County Keith Manz regarding the current pothole outbreak through our region. Of course, anyone need only drive a couple of blocks to conclude the same thing. 


We are bouncing around, ruining alignments and losing hubcaps all over the place – increasing the stress of driving under less than ideal conditions. One who experienced this firsthand is lifelong Saratoga Springs resident Anne Proulx.


“In the beginning of February we were heading to Wal-Mart along Weibel Avenue. I made a turn and – boom – right into a hole.” She said. “I thought I was just running through some water, but I had no idea that the water was covering a huge gap in the road until I looked at it closely later on. I didn’t learn until I returned home that I had lost my second hubcap of the winter.” 


“The road in front of Saratoga TODAY (Case Street) is an absolute mess because of potholes every winter. I called and left a message for the head of the DPW a few months ago but never heard back or saw any progress.” Said Chad Beatty, Publisher of Saratoga TODAY.


“This road has been an ongoing issue. It’s ironic because the road leads into Fasig-Tipton. They do $20+ million in horse sales on a single summer weekend but there is a low budget road out front all year.” Beatty said.


Generally, winter potholes form after precipitation permeates the pavement, causing the soil and sub-base layers underneath to freeze and expand leading to cracks in the pavement. As thawing occurs, sub-base and soil recede, often leaving a hole underneath the cracked pavement, which breaks further under the weight of vehicular traffic. 


There you have pothole pain in a paragraph. Each pothole can deepen or widen over time as more vehicles travel over it if not repaired.


According to Manz, what makes this winter so tough is that we never really got a mid-winter thaw. “Consistent frozen ground is much worse than a typical freeze/thaw cycle,” he said. “Eventually the thawing occurs and leads to a more severe effect.” 


Kathy Moran, office manager for Saratoga Springs’ Department of Public Works (DPW) said that they have three crews out each day in the city: covering Geyser Crest, Westside and Eastside. They are marking locations and a truck is dispatched to nearby asphalt providers in the city (Pompa Brothers or Palette Stone) to employ a process called “cold patch,” which is a temporary fix until repaving can occur. 


Why this intermediate step? Manz explained that the ground should be above 40 degrees to properly repave the road’s blacktop. He estimates that it is about 32 degrees currently. In the short-term, the prospect is for the pothole outbreak to get worse. 


“There is certainly more to come,” Manz said. “A 55-60 degree day or two will make the pavement even more pliable” as the ground thaws further. In fact, the forecast on the day this issue is published calls for a high of 62 degrees, with rain.


Moran said that the crews are aware of most pothole locations by now, but if city residents want to report a particular pothole, they are welcome to call the DPW office at (518) 587-3550 ext. 2555.


Manz said that up to four of his eight crews are consistently out each day now, rotating through the county to make pothole repairs. He also noted that the county has a repair hotline to report potholes and other road hazards – (518) 885-9020. When they receive a complaint, they dispatch a foreman to inspect the location and, if deemed necessary, will divert a crew to that spot, usually by the next day. 


Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen doesn’t control the paving budget items under the city’s commission form of government, but she certainly hears about citizen’s discontent. 


“We do recommend that their first call go to DPW. Many people do call us though as a secondary measure, feeling that it will lead to a quicker response and we want to be attentive to that and not give them ‘the city hall shuffle.’” She said.  


Mayor Yepsen said she was pleased that some relief came from the state in the form of increased money from the Department of Transportation’s CHIPS (Consolidated Local Street and Highway Improvement Plan) fund. A total of $40 million extra was allocated for “Extreme Winter Recovery” statewide, with the city receiving over $57,000 (Saratoga County also received over $209,000) according to the New York State Conference of Mayors website (nycom.org). This represents just under a 10 percent increase over the initial CHIPS funding levels. 


The money certainly will help this region recover from the ravages of nature’s wrath this past winter, but there is likely long road ahead to getting us all “patched up,” let alone paved. 


“There’s an image component, of course. You don’t want people to have a miserable experience driving around our city.” Mayor Yepsen said. “But even more important are safety issues, not to mention the potential for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in damage to our citizens’ and visitors’ vehicles.”

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