DOVER — The harsh winter pattern of freeze, thaw and re-freeze has passed.
Its legacy continues to linger, however.
Motorists within city limits and statewide are dodging potholes, which can prove devastating to a tire, causing potential safety issues and financial hardships.
The city of Dover needs to patch more trouble spots, and has $76,000 budgeted for a contractor through its Street and Alley Program. That’s following the $38,000 already spent for long lasting asphalt hot mix fixes that contractor George & Lynch administered.
Some spots in Dover are problematic enough to require immediate cold patches to fill in holes, and the city has $10,000 for asphalt and repair costs.
Also, the ongoing $800,000 mill overlay project to remove and replace top coats of asphalt also is designed to cure road woes one stretch at a time from intersection to intersection.
The winter was a cold one, and Dover Public Works Director Sharon Duca confirmed its effects were elevated from recent years. Also factoring in were utility failures involving water mains, storm drains and sewers, officials said.
“Based upon the freeze and thaw, and having a lot of icing, there were a lot more pavement failures than in previous years,” she said.
The cost is significant, but manageable at this point, Ms. Duca said.
“It’s within a reasonable zone that we’re able to achieve within our fiscal budget,” she said.
Many of bad areas are reported by citizens who call 736-7025.
“We put in work orders and get out as quickly as possible to investigate,” Ms. Duca said.
The reports are quite reliable, Ms. Duca said, and allow the city to work efficiently to address them.
“For the most part they are pretty accurate,” she said. “Sometimes they might be a little exaggerated, but at the same time it’s better to check instead of finding out it’s something that can’t be ignored after serious problems come up.
“Our citizens do a good job.”
The assist is needed to help a public works department down 16 employees from a year ago due to unfilled job vacancies, Ms. Duca said.
“We continue to encourage the public to call in with concerns since we have had staffing reductions,” Ms. Duca said. “It’s good to have so many eyes and ears out there.”
The public can be distraught when communicating with the city, and Ms. Duca said that’s OK.
“I think most people are fair and understand,” she said. “There are also a good number who are agitated, and I don’t necessarily blame them for that, either.
“That’s kind of our role (in public works) to be a sounding board for problems and then be responsible for addressing them in our duty for the city.”
Also, city sanitation and street sweeper crews on the roadways monitor the roadways for damage and report to public works.
There’s plenty of ground to cover — according to Google, the city of Dover limits cover 22.7 square miles and the city said it maintains 105.15 miles through Municipal Street Aid Funds. Wilmington, in comparison, includes a more dense 17.03 square miles and 147.82 street miles to keep up with.
This season’s potholes were spread out in Dover, Ms. Duca said, and showed up more in older areas such as the Towne Point and Mayfair neighborhoods.
“That coincides with their aging infrastructure,” she said.
State repairs ongoing
The Delaware Department of Transportation currently has about 75 employees statewide dedicated to repairing potholes, and the state has repaired about 21,400 of them since March 8. Four pothole-patching trucks are now in use, officials said.
During the week ending April 4, 4,400 potholes were repaired, DelDOT said.
“DelDOT continues to work hard to address potholes statewide, and we believe that we are on target to address this year’s crop by mid-April,” spokesman Greg Layton said.
“That said, potholes continue to appear in places where temperature and moisture fluctuations have weakened the pavement, so we cannot promise perfection. Potholes will continue to develop throughout the year.”
DelDOT has spent about $447,025 for pothole repairs made by state employees so far this year, Mr. Layton said.
“We prioritized our heaviest traveled roads and roads that have the most severe potholes first,” Mr. Layton said. “Then, we address less-traveled roads, and finally we address reported potholes on numbered roads and in subdivisions.”
Some heavily traveled roadways in New Castle County are worked on during the least busy traffic time, and some DelDOT employees are working overtime hours to repair the potholes, Mr. Layton said.
All told, DelDOT said this year’s winter pothole season was no more or less severe than the previous one.
“This year’s pothole season is about as bad as last year’s pothole season,” Mr. Layton said.
“One season is really no worse than the other.”
Delaware residents can report potholes online by using the “Report A Road Condition” page online at www.deldot.gov/ReportRoadCondition/.
“That page ensures that we get information that is as accurate as we need and that we can direct it to the appropriate maintenance district quickly,” Mr. Layton said.
‘A bumper crop’
AAA-Mid Atlantic said it had responded to 1,154 calls for roadside tire service through March 29 compared to 905 at the same time last year.
“This year we have seen a bumper crop of potholes as evidenced by a 24 percent increase in member calls for roadside tire service,” AAA-Mid Atlantic spokesman Jim Lardear said.
To limit damage, AAA-Mid Atlantic advised drivers to slow down and hit the pothole head on instead of swerving while attempting to avoid it.
“Hitting a pothole at a high speed is going to do some damage, so the best advice is to slow down before impact, hit the pothole squarely and roll through,” Mr. Lardear said.
“Hitting it at an angle can transfer the impact’s energy in ways that can cause more damage to your car. It is also important to keep both hand firmly on the steering wheel (hands at 9 and 3 o’clock) in case hitting the pothole causes your car to suddenly change directions.”
The impact of a pothole strike are both physical and emotional, officials said.
“Potholes cause a variety of woes for motorists, ranging from lost hubcaps, warped wheel alignment, damaged tires, fractured undercarriages, bent axles, smashed mufflers, out of shape shocks, and rattled nerves,” Mr. Lardear said.
AAA-Mid Atlantic cited American Society of Civil Engineers findings that driving on roads in need of repair costs Delaware motorists $380 annually.
According to a Trusted Choice and the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America, a survey showed 31 percent of car owners reporting pothole damage filed a claim with their insurance company. Also, 65 percent of those needing repair said they or a third party paid out of pocket for vehicle fixes.
Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at email@example.com