Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

Video: Pothole season keeps Colorado Springs crews busy

By Monica Mendoza Updated: January 8, 2014 at 7:06 am 0

Calls that come into the city's pothole hotline describe them being as big as Cadillacs.

Usually, when crews arrive, the potholes are more the size of dinner plates, said Corey Farkas, Colorado Springs street division manager.

"But we never know what to expect," Farkas said.

One thing is certain though, it is pothole season, a time when road craters are like bunnies multiplying exponentially across the city's 7,400 lane miles of roads.

"It's horrible," Farkas said. "Living in Southern Colorado we have this freeze/thaw."

It snows, the ground gets cold and then the sun comes out and melts the snow, which seeps into road cracks. Then, when overnight temperatures drop, the water freezes, expands and dislodges chunks of asphalt.

And the pothole is born, Farkas said.

Eight pothole trucks are on the move five days a week with crews doing their best to fill each hole within two weeks of being alerted to it. Their 2013 average was seven days.

"In 2010, it was 21 days, "Farkas said. "That was not good. Two weeks is something we really want to stick to."

In January, it wouldn't be unheard of for crews to fill more than 3,000 potholes, despite the cold temperatures. But it can be a bit like deja vu all over again as crews fill a hole that immediately gets wiped out by a snow plow and then crews are back at the same hole, Farkas said.

"Patching is what we do - you won't see anyone laying asphalt on the roads, not until spring," he said.

One three-person crew made its way up Nevada Avenue Tuesday with a mission of filling about 70 potholes, said Ed Rodriguez , traffic control supervisor. Some roads are riddled with small potholes "just big enough to tick you off," he said. But they also found a dangerous pothole of 2 feet by 3 feet and two inches deep.

"This is our busy time after heavy snow and rain," he said.

The pothole is, and likely always will be, a subject of city conversation. In 2014, the city will spend about $300,000 to fill nearly 26,000 potholes.

About 340 people snapped photos from April to December of those annoying chuckholes and sent them directly to the streets department, along with GPS coordinates, via www.GoCoSprings.com - an app that allows residents can report anything from barking dogs to graffiti to potholes.

"Increasingly we live in a mobile world," said Joe Palmer, the city's chief information officer.

Studies show that 64 percent of mobile phone owners use a smartphone, he said.

"So, the idea for the app was about delivery of services to residents in a manner that they expect - user friendly, on-demand and on their device taking advantage of some of the powerful technology in their hand, including the ability to provide us with GPS coordinates and a phone when reporting an issue."

All reports - whether reported from the app or the old-fashioned pothole hotline -- are sent to one of the four district supervisors and tracked until completion, Farkas said.

"We love it," Farkas said. "We are ecstatic about it. Matter of fact, we are really working hard to change the way we do business at the street division, and the app really helps us with customer service."

In 2013, crews filled 25,284 potholes, slightly down from 2012. But summer flooding had street crews sidetracked to debris removal, Farkas said.

Farkas has big ideas for potholes in 2014. In March and April the city will launch Pothole Palooza and crews will hit the pothole scene hard to fill abut 7,300 potholes before summer tourism gets started. Crews also will resume filling potholes in alleys -- work that was put off when the economy hit the skids in 2009.

"I want to be proactive," Farkas said. "Most of the way we do business is changing in 2014."

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