Salt In The Wound

The rapid rise and fall of temperatures this season has left roadways in Chautauqua County littered with gaping holes and missing patches of pavement.

Road workers are doing everything they can to keep roads clear and repair potholes at the same time.

“The people who are saying potholes are worse this year are correct,” said Beau Duffy, director of communications for the New York State Department of Transportation. “It’s a statewide issue from Long Island to Western New York.”

Potholes are created when water seeps into cracks within the pavement, freezes and expands. The weight of vehicles causes the asphalt to loosen and crumble.

“I know that statewide, we are having a lot of issues with potholes because we’ve had a lot of frequent thaw-freeze cycles,” Duffy said.

Seeing as how blacktop asphalt cannot be used in cold weather, cold patch asphalt is used to repair the damage, but does not last long.

Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie and Niagara counties will use twice the amount of cold patch asphalt this year, compared to 2013, Duffy said.

“I don’t know if we’ll use twice as much,” said Mark Schlemmer, senior engineer for Jamestown’s Department of Public Works. “We might use 20 to 30 percent more than we used last year. There are a lot of dirty, wet holes in Jamestown.”

Weather conditions have been wreaking havoc on city pavement, he added. Currently, without knowing if there will be another freeze followed by warmer temperatures, roads are being fixed with cold patch asphalt until hot mix asphalt can be used in the spring.

As for prioritizing potholes, Schlemmer said they are repaired on an as-needed basis.

“We take complaint calls, and if we see them we report it to our dispatcher,” he said. “We try to get the ones that cause safety hazards or vehicle damage. It’s not what streets they are on, it’s how bad they are.”

Certain roads are more susceptible to pothole damage.

“Specifically here in Jamestown, the worst potholes form usually when the sub base or the gravel underneath the blacktop is unsuitable for heavy vehicle traffic,” Schlemmer said. “The only real, permanent fix to those types of streets is to rip out all the blacktop, dig out the bad soils and replace it with structural gravel.”

A recent example of this type of restructuring was performed on Lakeview Avenue from 2012-13 and Curtis Street near Jamestown Community College.

“Of all the streets we’ve redone, we’re using good soils and those roads are not forming potholes,” Schlemmer said.

Another section of Lakeview Avenue will need to be restructured, closer to Sixth Street.

City streets with brick underneath pavement are susceptible to potholes as well, such as a portion of Washington Street where Third Street intersects.

“Where the blacktop is peeling off the brick you get a pothole, but what makes it worse is when there are multiple layers on top of the brick, and when it starts to peel away, you’ve got a sizable drop,” Schlemmer said. “Potholes are inevitable. They always happen, and the only good I can see is that it gives people something to talk about.”

Dunkirk Mayor Anthony Dolce said he has seen an influx of potholes and significant road damage in his city.

“We’re definitely going to have some work on our hands come spring time,” Dolce said, adding that the Dunkirk DPW has been using cold patch asphalt like Jamestown.

“That’s a very temporary fix, though,” Dolce said. “We haven’t done much road repair work in the last two years, so our budget’s in good shape to get out there and address some problems when the weather allows us to do so.”