Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

February 18, 2011

Time to fix the potholes

Crews out applying 'cold patch'

A break from wintry weather this week was an occasion for highway crews to patch the potholes pockmarking area roads.

According to Norman Allen, director of engineering and public works for the City of Lockport, highway crews have been working the past couple of weeks, as time and conditions allow, to whittle down the “substantial list” of potholes that employees have been writing all winter.

Public works crews also are on pothole patrol in Middleport, according to Village Coordinator Dan Dodge. He said conditions Thursday and Friday were ideal for applying “cold patch,” a malleable asphalt mix that doesn’t need to be heated before it’s applied and hardens quickly.

Niagara County had several three-man crews out Friday cold-patching county roads. The crews went first to areas where complaint-call volumes are highest; and from there will start tackling pothole lists made by highway supervisors.

“It’ll be a daily thing, weather allowing, now probably through May,” Michael Tracy, deputy public works commissioner, said.

Cold patch is only a temporary fix for damaged roads, the highway chiefs said; snow plows and passenger vehicles are equally able to knock the stuff out of place and re-expose the hole. The longer-lasting fixes, hot patching and cut-and-fill, can’t be undertaken until spring, when the local asphalt plants are operating again.

Roads consist of a base, often a dirt-and-gravel mix topped with hot asphalt. According to industry experts, potholes form where water seeped into cracks in the asphalt, settled and froze. When water freezes, it expands and dislodges dirt and gravel; and when it thaws, holes are left behind in the base. “Potholes” are the result of the asphalt layer collapsing into them. We’re seeing (and feeling) more potholes because of the recent thaw.

Driving conditions on Park Avenue in Lockport are notably bumpy this winter. It’s because Park Avenue has a concrete base, Tracy said; the washerboard feel of the road is due to ice forming on top of the concrete and rippling the pavement. Once the ice melts, the road should be smooth again, he said.

Climate conditions this winter have caused Lockport public works an additional headache. Since early December, when the first snowfall occurred and consistent cold set in, the water maintenance unit has responded to about 20 water line breaks around the city. According to Allen, frost underground pushes the lines around, and older lines may snap.

To report potholes on city streets, residents can call the engineering office, 439-6750; the mayor’s office, 439-6665; or send an e-mail to the engineering office. At elockport.com, access “city,” select “engineering” from the pull-down menu, and click on “Email Us.” City crews are taking care of potholes on the state portion of Walnut Street (Route 31) and Transit Street (Route 78), Allen said.

To report potholes on county roads, call 439-7360; to report them on town-owned roads, call that town’s highway garage. According to Tracy, all county roads are striped, while most town roads are not.

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