Chautauqua County municipalities are looking forward to better weather, and the opportunity to put extra state funding for road repair to good use.
The state budget allocated $40 million to an “extreme weather assistance” pothole fund in response to the unusually harsh winter.
The funds are to be distributed under the same formula as the Consolidated Highway Improvement Program (CHIP), which was brought to $438 million within the budget.
“CHIPs funding reduces the load on property tax payers,” said state Sen. Cathy Young, R-Olean. “After this winter that we’ve had, that’s extremely important.”
Chautauqua County’s CHIP funding increased by 9 percent, which is $336,000 more than the county received in 2013, totaling $4.1 million designated for the county.
“We need the temperature to go up, so we can do good work,” said George Spanos, director of public facilities. “Based on the money we receive, we will establish construction projects. The deterioration of our roads within Jamestown has been accelerated because of the extreme weather, and once the process has been completed we’ll re-evaluate additional projects for 2014.”
Road crews have been hard at work, preparing streets throughout the county for patchwork and filling holes with asphalt. In some areas, large spans of patchwork take up stretches of several feet in the middle of the road or lane.
The majority of blacktop used on city and county roads is produced locally by Jamestown Macadam, which began selling hot mix early this year.
“Right now, road crews are filling the most treacherous holes,” said Steve Russo, salesman for Macadam, adding that the ground has been frozen between 3-4 feet beneath the surface. “This year has been particularly deep.”
Earlier in the season, gaping holes were all over city, county and state roads.
Crews used cold patch asphalt to fill them, but with the return of cold weather, they didn’t last very long.
The condition of Route 60 has been a topic of discussion since December.
“The worst potholes form usually when the subbase or the gravel underneath the blacktop is unsuitable for heavy vehicle traffic,” said Mark Schlemmer, senior engineer for Jamestown’s Department of Public Works. “The only real, permanent fix to those types of roads is to rip out all the blacktop, dig out the bad soils and replace it with structural gravel.”
However, poor subbase is not the problem on Route 60, according to Charlie Morganti, regional director of operations for the state Department of Transportation.
“The issue is that the surface is deteriorating, and that’s due to the freeze/thaw cycles,” he said. “In recent history, it has not been this bad.”
Morganti said the DOT is waiting to receive state funding to repair Route 60, but another issue is that the plant from which they purchase blacktop, Hanson Aggregates, is not yet open.
“Also, we have to have the proper pavement temperatures, so that’s part of the equation,” he said. “What we’re looking for with pavement temperatures is 50 to 60 degrees consistently. As you can imagine with this winter, the ground is holding that cold still.”
Morganti said the DOT hopes to begin milling Route 60 in the second week of May, when several inches will be milled off the surface and replaced with new asphalt.
For now, four state crews continue to work throughout the county.
Echoing Russo, Morganti said all crews are trying to patch the worst of the potholes.
Roadways with the most issues include Route 39 in Forestville, Route 60 and Route 394 in Lakewood.
Pavement at the intersection of Southwestern Drive and Route 394 has deteriorated significantly, but crews were seen last week preparing it to be patched.
To report a pothole to the DOT, call 1-800-Pothole.