Solving D.C.€s Pothole Problem

Michael Waters | 4/8/2009, 12:42 p.m.

It€s called Potholepalooza, and city officials are hoping it will put a smile on Washington-area drivers€ faces. D.C. city officials are asking city residents and commuters, from March 11 to April 11, to inform the Department of Transportation of potholes via telephone, e-mail, Twitter or the department€s website so they can promptly fix them.

Crews will be on patrol, as well, to identify unreported potholes, according to John Lisle, public information officer for the Department of Transportation. Reported holes will be fixed within 48 hours or at the most 72 hours, he said. It is around this time every year that potholes become a problem in the District.

Potholes start as cracks formed in the road€s surface from winter ice, snow and freezing temperatures. The millions of cars driving across those cracks cause them to expand to form the potholes and sinkholes.

This year, Mayor Adrian Fenty and the D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) workers hope to get an early start with €Potholepalooza€.

€The idea is to try to jazz it up and make it interesting,€ Lisle said. €We wanted to tackle the problem in a fun way.€ Potholes are not just annoying to drivers; they are costly, as well.

€The appearance of potholes brings the potential of damage to vehicle suspension components,€ said John Nielsen, director of AAA€s Approved Auto Repair. The damage not only results in the dangerous loss of handling a the car on the road, but can result in costly repairs to a car€s wheels, tires, struts, springs or shocks. Many area residents are grateful for the campaign.

€I€m glad they€re doing something about it early this year because it€s a constant problem,€ D.C. resident Amber Giles said. €I drive over two or three potholes everyday on my way to work, and I€m always cautious because I can€t afford another expense just from getting where I have to be.€

The campaign began on Q Street in southeast Washington with Mayor Adrian and DDOT Director Gabe Klein on hand to celebrate the event. On the first day, 198 potholes were repaired, Lisle said.

On March 16, 518 potholes were filled. Three days later, 397 potholes were fixed and on March 26, another 370 potholes were filled despite rain. The total number of potholes to be fixed is unknown but DDOT officials hope to eliminate any backlog of reported potholes by the conclusion of the campaign, Lisle said.

As of March 27, DDOT has reportedly repaired 3,366 potholes. In addition, it has received over 300 service requests from residents and commuters and several requests report multiple potholes.

€From 12 requests came 68 potholes,€ Lisle said.

The department typically has about three crews year-round that fix potholes and sinkholes. During the Potholepalooza campaign there will be as many as nine crews out per day, officials said.Crews fix potholes by sealing them with replacement pavement. In high volume traffic areas, hot asphalt is used for a longer lasting effect to combat the wear and tear of increased traffic.

If a specific roadway is plagued by multiple potholes, it may need to be resurfaced, which is a longer process. The exact cost of the program is unknown, Lisle said, but the department fills about 22,000 potholes per year at an average cost of $900,000.