May 30th, 2024

Crews focusing on potholes along city streets

By Delon Shurtz - Lethbridge Herald on May 7, 2024.


When it comes to potholes, Lethbridge motorists have little patience and they want them repaired yesterday, especially if the potholes are on their streets.
But with more than 900 calls to repair potholes expected this year, don’t expect City crews to fill the hole in front of your house any time soon.
“We try to focus first on the real busy roads, then over the course of the summer move on to residential roads and some back roads,” says Juliane Ruck, manager of transportation operations.
The City has already received more than 350 calls for pothole service, which is comparable to the same time last year. But the number depends largely on the weather and the impact of freezing water.
“We didn’t have much snow in November and December and then we had snow in January, February and March, but the chinook weather, the melting in between, makes things challenging,” Ruck says.
Residents can notify the city of any potholes they see, but it could take some time to respond given the number of potholes that crop up every spring. And if 900 service calls sounds like a lot, that number does not mean 900 potholes. Ruck says each call could result in five to 10 potholes, so crews could repair up to 10,000 potholes in a given year.
“We try to prioritize and address the busiest roads first, like arterials and collectors,” Ruck says, noting back alleys are most often at the bottom of the priority list.
The Spring is the busiest time of the year, and crews are filling holes day and night. An additional crew will be employed later in the year to focus on residential roads and alleys, and there are sinkholes and frost boils that also need to be repaired.
Once crews start filling a street full of potholes, work moves along relatively quickly, but it’s still quite an involved process, and costly; about $150,000 a year.
An entire street of potholes requires more than a single worker with a shovel and wheelbarrow full of hot asphalt.
Preparation starts by ensuring hot asphalt is available. The city uses recycled asphalt or asphalt from a local plant. In cold weather it must be transported in a hot box.
The site must be assessed for job-specific hazards, including overhead power lines, pedestrians, traffic and weather, and roads must often be closed to traffic to mitigate hazards.
Once on site, crews unload the patching roller and other tools such as rakes, shovels, tack oil brushes, a pick axe, cones, brooms, a hand or plate tamper if needed, and a torch. The area around the pothole has to be cleaned, and old, cracked pieces of asphalt have to be removed.
The hole and edges are then coated with tack oil. Tack oil acts like a glue to connect old and new asphalt. During cold weather tack oil must be activated with a torch.
A truck full of asphalt stops just ahead of a pothole, raises its box and slowly releases the required amount of asphalt out of a small opening while a couple of workers shovel and rake it into place. Once it’s level it’s compacted with a small ride-on asphalt roller.
Now repeat on other streets 899 more times.
Anyone who wants to report a pothole can dial the city’s 311 number for inquiries and service requests. Just remember, patience is a virtue.

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