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SHERIDAN — In a misty rain or a relaxing bathtub soak, water may seem harmless, but when it freezes — expanding by approximately 9 percent in volume — it is a force to be reckoned with.
Over the winter and into spring, when water that has seeped into roadways freezes and thaws, it can make rock-hard cement crack overnight.
Those tiny cracks, seemingly inconsequential, widen under the weight of passing cars and trucks.
“With winter, we have water that gets in and freezes, then expands, then freezes, and after a while, with the frozen water and the traffic driving over the cracks, the asphalt is weakened and when it does thaw, we get a pothole,” City Engineer Lane Thompson said. “This winter, with the extreme cold and all the precipitation, it has been a much higher than average year for potholes.”
Thompson said city crews work hard to stay on top of pothole repair, fixing as many per week as they can using a machine called a Durapatcher that sprays oil and rock into the holes to fill them up.
In fact, the city has rented a second Durapatcher for the month of April to take care of as many potholes as possible.
However, repairs are temporary. Permanent repairs can’t be made until June when it’s warm enough for city crews to fire up the asphalt plant and use hot mix and asphalt to make permanent patches, Thompson said.
Some roads that are aged or experience heavy traffic, like the intersection of Loucks Street and Highland Avenue, the Lewis Street Bridge and Thurmond Avenue, suffer from new or renewed potholes almost weekly.
Thompson said the city tries to keep up with all the potholes, but that it welcomes input from residents who regularly drive the city’s roads.
“Especially with potholes, being everywhere, it really does help when citizens call us because if we can get on them sooner to keep them from getting so big, we can usually at least stop the growth,” Thompson said. “We don’t look at it as a complaint. We are happy to know they are there because we don’t know where they all are.”
Thompson said all reports are tracked on an Iworq program that logs the concern, notifies the necessary staff members, prepares a work order and keeps track of progress.
While potholes keep city crews busy, they can also amp up business for local auto shops.
“It’s one of the best things that happens to my kind of business,” Owner of Cherni Auto Repair and Sales Fred Cherni said. “Of course, it happens fairly. It happens to my cars, too. It’s springtime. We get potholes every year.”
Cherni said it’s rare that a customer will come in and say he or she hit a pothole and now there’s a problem — though hitting a bad pothole at 30 mph can damage a wheel bearing and cause that ominous grinding sound — but he does see several cars in the spring with telltale signs of being out of line: uneven wear on the tires, pulling to one side or another, and wear and tear on shocks, struts and ball joints.
“Any time you hit a big pothole, there’s a possibility of something going on afterwards. As a consumer, all you can do is pay attention,” Cherni said. “The first time you whack them it’s a surprise; the second time, you should be looking for it.”
• Report a pothole
Call the City Service Center at 674-4112 or visit sheridanwy.net, click on the “I want to…” tab, then the “Report…” tab and select “A pothole” to make a report about a pothole.