Street workers in Franklin are using more than 7 tons of materials to patch potholes each week, even as more form each day.
The city has used about double the amount of patching material as in a normal winter, and street workers are struggling to keep up, interim street commissioner Andy Duckworth said. Even with two trucks scouring the city nearly every day, new holes open up just about as quickly as the city can fill them.
The long stretches of freezing weather have made potholes much more frequent so far this winter.
Layers of ice and snow have finally melted, but as that water thaws during the day and freezes again at night, pavement starts crumbling. That cycle has street workers countywide working all day filling holes so that drivers aren’t popping tires. If workers aren’t plowing, they’re usually driving county, city and town streets and fixing potholes.
During the coldest stretches this winter, holes weren’t forming as fast because the temperature never got warm enough for ice to thaw. But as the temperature has started to climb, the continual freezing and thawing is now busting up pavement worse than it has at any other point this year, local officials said.
Pavement temperatures are always warmer than the air, even when it’s overcast, so snow and ice will start to melt even on very cold days, Johnson County Highway Department director Luke Mastin said. Since it’s so cold, that moisture is not evaporating and refreezes at night on and in the pavement, causing new holes, he said. The amount of salt that has been used to clear snow this winter is also trapping more moisture because salt that’s been crushed into the asphalt attracts water.
“I believe this spring is going to be one of the worst we have ever seen for road damage due to freeze and thaw. The amount of salt above or normal averages, plus the water infiltration we have had into our roadways could easily be the most expensive year of repairs,” Mastin said.
The number of potholes has shot up significantly. In January in Indianapolis, the Department of Public Works fixed about 1,900 of 2,300 reported potholes. This month, the number of potholes shot up to more than 6,000, while the city was able to patch about 2,000 of them.
Throughout the winter, street workers have been patching holes with cold mix, which is a soft asphalt that is shoveled into a hole and compacted. But the fix is temporary because they often don’t completely fill the hole and keep other water out, so the hole that was fixed last month may have burst open again this week. For example, workers in Franklin already have fixed some holes on high-traffic streets such as North Main Street or King Street multiple times because they reopen after a few weeks of weather and traffic, Duckworth said.
Greenwood hadn’t planned to repave some roads such as Meridian Street this year, but the pavement has been so ravaged by potholes it will likely have to be torn up and redone this summer, Greenwood Deputy Mayor Terry McLaughlin said. City workers are continuing to patch day-by-day, but are waiting for temperatures to rise so that they can start a final sweep of repairs with hot mix asphalt, which is better for long-term fixes, he said.
The busiest roads take the most damage as multiple vehicles hitting a hole can make it wider and deeper. When Whiteland annexed land east to Interstate 65, that also included taking over maintenance of Whiteland Road. Trucks and vehicles coming off of the interstate and buses traveling to Whiteland Community High School have beaten up the roadway, town manager Dennis Capozzi said.
The town employs two street workers, so by the time they fix holes on Whiteland Road, Paul Hand Boulevard and the worst potholes in neighborhoods, it’s time to start over on Whiteland Road again.
Tracy Road is one of the busiest in New Whiteland and town workers have focused on fixing its potholes as soon as possible, public works superintendent Wendell Johnson said. Those have become worse during the past week after temperatures went from 60 degrees to 20 degrees, moisture frozen under the asphalt began to thaw and the asphalt started to pop, he said.
On the average day, Greenwood has three trucks out looking for and filling potholes, including in neighborhoods. Even low-traffic sidestreets can develop large holes, McLaughlin said.
In Franklin, for example, workers came across a deep hole that opened up in the Camelot subdivision and had to dig out additional pavement in order to patch it, Duckworth said. One street in the Windstar subdivision also has needed multiple repairs because new holes keep popping open. The size of those repairs isn’t typical in an average year, he said.
One asphalt plant in Indianapolis already has reopened for the year, so Greenwood is starting to fill some holes with hot mix asphalt, which forms a sturdier and more permanent patch, McLaughlin said. Once spring arrives, street workers will drive all of the city streets and assign road ratings that will help determine which roads need new repairs.
Meridian Street will likely end up on that list, and the city also may have to work on Honey Creek Road, which has a thinner base layer of stone than other roads and has deteriorated more than other city streets, he said.
Indiana Department of Transportation workers continue to tackle potholes daily, but are hoping recent pavement projects, such as crack sealing or chip-and-seal repaving, will help prevent water from getting under the asphalt and reduce future holes, spokesman Harry Maginity said.