Pothole problems: Maintenance crews keep busy as drivers feel frustration
It’s the time of year in Grand County when the weather vacillates between winter and spring, putting strain on the roads with the heavy traffic and detrimental conditions leading to more than a few potholes.
Currently, the Colorado Department of Transportation doesn’t have any road improvement projects planned for Highway 34 or Highway 40 for this year, but is instead planning those projects for the future, including repaving an eight mile portion of Highway 34, which is scheduled for 2020.
In the meantime, maintenance crews’ primary focus this time of year is filling potholes.
Visit CDOT’s website at https://www.codot.gov/topcontent/contact-cdot
Or call CDOT’s customer service representative line at (970) 243-2368.
“At this time of year, we’re just taking advantage of warm days,” said Bob Wilson, spokesperson for CDOT. “It’s a matter of finding windows where the temperatures are conducive to that kind of work.”
Potholes are particularly common during this season because of the freezing and thawing cycle that causes snow to melt and then refreeze under the surface of the road, which creates cracks that become potholes when cars, especially heavier vehicles, drive over them.
“Eventually that whole underground surface is worn out and it breaks and then you have a pothole,” Wilson explained.
Crews are assigned sections of road where they are responsible for upkeep and safety concerns, but Wilson explained that CDOT also relies on drivers to report potholes to the agency so they can get repairs scheduled.
While there is no timeline for when potholes are repaired after they have been reported, the location, size, depth and ability to damage cars are all taken into consideration when CDOT is prioritizing which holes to fill.
Typically, areas that need plowing, damaged guardrails or other safety concerns come before filling potholes, Wilson said.
“(Crews) go out and take care of it as soon as they can,” he said. “If you just have a little bit of a rougher road or just some slight road damage, then a large potholes or one of those potholes that’s filling up and making a puddle, that’s going to take priority. The more of a safety hazard a pothole creates, the higher priority it’s going to become.”
Since potholes are a naturally occurring phenomena, the state is not generally liable for damages caused to vehicles by potholes. The exception to this is in construction zones or project areas where the road surface has been removed.
According to an estimate from AAA, the roadside assistance company, potholes cost American drivers over $3 billion in damage annually.
One seven-inch deep pothole on Highway 34 near mile marker 14 showcased the damage that can be done. Last month, at least four different vehicles were towed in one day after sustaining damage from the same pothole.
One of those vehicles was Grand County resident Linda Applehans’ Mercedes, which sustained damage to two rims and tires and ultimately cost around $2,500.
Applehans said she reported the pothole, along with the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and a state trooper, but would like to see a quicker repair response or some sort of a warning for other drivers.
Aside from reporting potholes, Wilson also cautioned drivers to slow down and be cautious about the damage potholes can cause, particularly when it comes to puddles, which can obscure the size of the hole.
“We just want people to be careful and slow down,” he said.
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