City crews filled a record number of potholes during the first two months of the year, although that might not be much consolation for drivers having to dodge tens of thousands that remain.
Through March 3 this year, street crews filled 13,190 potholes, up from about 11,427 potholes filled during the same period last year, said Corey Farkas, streets manager. The number of potholes filled by crews from January through March has risen every year since 2016 after residents first approved 2C, a sales tax dedicated to paving projects, city data shows. The city budgets about $330,000 per year for potholes and has increased the number filled with hot and cold asphalt mix through new equipment and better processes, he said.
“I think the crews are doing a good job of getting out there and doing as much as they can,” Farkas said.
However, the eight city pothole trucks can’t get to all the damage caused by freezing and thawing on and under city roads, leaving some residents to deal with vehicle damage.
“It’s very hard on an older car like mine. … I have a Subaru Forester and it’s 16 years old now and it just has had to have so many alignments because it’s knocked around so much,” said Helga Miller, a resident who lives near Old Farm Circle, near Powers and Stetson Hills boulevards.
Ray Lisle said a pothole on Pikes Peak Avenue west of Union Boulevard destroyed his tire and rim.
“Ridiculous!!! Why should I have to pay for damages to my car that was caused by a massive pothole in the middle of the street?” he said, in an email.
Lisle's complaint is a common one. The city receives requests from residents to cover damage from potholes daily and 99% are denied, said Dave Miller, risk supervisor for the city. The city does not have to cover vehicle damage because Colorado law states governments must know about damage such as a pothole and have an opportunity to fix it, he said.
“The claims that may be covered might involve potholes that occur in front of a city-owned facility, where the city would or should have known that the pothole existed,” he said.
While it’s tough for city staff to say whether the 2019-20 pothole season has been worse than previous years, the city has seen an increase this year in the number of reported potholes — 753 through March 3, an increase from 666 during the same period last year, Farkas said. The city relies on residents' reports to help keep the traveling public safe. City crews are sent out on “search and destroy missions,” to fill holes, but they can't find all the holes on their own, he said.
For the city, filling a pothole is akin to taking Tylenol — it may address the symptoms but it’s a temporary fix, he said; the long-term solution is repaving roads, he said.
The city expects to spend 2C dedicated sales tax money — 5.7 cents on every $10 purchase — to pave 225 lane miles this year, including portions of Garden of the Gods Road, Nevada Avenue and East Platte Avenue. Garden of Gods Road will close at night for paving so that crews don’t disrupt commuters as much, he said.
The city prioritizes well-traveled stretches of road based on inspections done every three years to determine the condition of the pavement. But the sections of road slated for repaving are not necessarily the worst roads in town because those may need to be rebuilt, Farkas said.
“When we really start getting areas when we have a pothole truck living on that roadway, that’s where we identify that for a bigger program in the spring,” he said.
Miller said she doesn't understand the system that led crews to pave the lower portion of Old Farm Circle, but not all of it.
“It is so full of potholes and cracks it’s definitely cringeworthy and maddening,” she said.
Resident Amy Cochran also questions the city’s methods because she has noticed Palmer Park Boulevard from North Academy Boulevard to Powers Boulevard coming apart in places, despite being resurfaced last year.
“It seems to me that the great and intelligent people who plan this type of work would be able to come up with a solution materialwise that would have a little better resistance to our weather,” she said.
Farcas said it is not uncommon for deep cracks to appear on the surface of repaved roads, but repaving should extend the life of the road for 10 to 15 years before it needs to be paved again. In the case of Palmer Park Boulevard, it was scheduled for repavement in 2019, but it was pushed back to 2020, he said.
The city is testing a synthetic fiber additive to the asphalt along two stretches of roadway to determine if it can delay cracking, Farcas said.
The Colorado Department of Transportation has been facing the same battle against potholes on highways and has prioritized Interstate 25, U.S. 24 and Colorado 21 for repairs, said Michelle Peulen, a spokeswoman for the agency. Repairs on those roads are done at night because of the high volume of traffic, she said.
Crews are also constantly patrolling the construction zone on I-25 from Monument to Castle Rock, an area known as the "Gap," for potholes and drivers should expect to encounter emergency pothole repairs, Peulen said.
"We understand the roadway is rough through there," she said.
Drivers can also expect lane closures for pothole repairs on Colorado Highway 85/87 in Security-Widefield from near Fontaine Boulevard to an area close to Southmoor Drive from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through March 20.