Potholes latest headache for Stamford drivers
Cold-weather hazard: Potholes latest headache for Stamford drivers this season
STAMFORD -- The snow is finally melting from city streets, leaving behind one more travel hazard for drivers: potholes.
The small craters, suddenly ubiquitous on city streets, are another byproduct of the winter's heavy snowfalls. Roads have natural cracks, which let in water from snow, sleet, rain and hail, said Doug Hoyt, operations supervisor for the city's Highway and Roads Department. The moisture trapped under the asphalt freezes, then thaws, then refreezes, which raises the roadway. Cars traveling over the expanded pavement break down the asphalt until it becomes a pothole.
"They're terrible," Hoyt said of the potholes. "We can't keep up with them."
The city has deployed four two-men road crews for pothole repair, Hoyt said. The eight workers spend the entire day roving the city's streets, responding to reports of road disrepair called in from the Stamford Police Department and Citizens Service Center.
"The potholes are not hard to find," Hoyt said Wednesday. "There are at least 50 potholes that the road crews are out there doing right now."
To fill the potholes during the winter months, the crews use cold asphalt, which does not bind to the roadway as effectively as hot asphalt, Hoyt said. The cold-asphalt patching, or cold patch, deteriorates quickly, and is intended as a short-term solution until hot asphalt plants open in mid-March.
More Information'We haven't even had the thaw yet, when that happens this will seem like a picnic. As soon as you get to 40 degrees or so, that's when the potholes are going to pop out all over the place, like measles.' Stamford Citizens Service Cetner Supervisor Frank Fedeli
"It is just a temporary fix," Hoyt said. "It's just something to get us through the winter until the asphalt plants open in the spring. It's been a pretty hectic winter -- in between storms we're trying to fill holes, and there's just not enough time in the day."
In addition to being less effective than hot asphalt, cold patch is more expensive, Hoyt said. The city is paying for winter road repairs from its asphalt budget, not its snow removal budget, and funds are "OK for now," said City Director of Operations Ernie Orgera.
Stamford's road crews focus first on the city's downtown section, such as Main, Atlantic and Broad Streets, before heading to other main roads such as Newfield Avenue, Hope Street and Stillwater Road, Orgera said. The Stamford roadway that has been the most heavily plagued by winter potholes is, ironically, Summer Street, which road crews often find themselves returning to several times a day to patch re-opened road craters.
"We've been there every day trying to fix Summer Street," Hoyt said. "There's a few out there that have been very bad and we're going back there every day."
"We have a lot of blowouts from people driving into potholes," Springer said. "There are a lot of bent or cracked wheels because of it."
Cars with low-profile wheels, such as Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, are especially vulnerable to pothole damage, Springer said. Low-profile wheels are designed for performance rather than durability, and have less rubber between the road and the wheel's rim than other tires.
Car owners can't do much more than avoid potholes to protect wheels and tires, Springer said.
"I drive like I'm almost impaired because I'm all over the road trying to avoid every one I can," he said.
In a typical year, the Citizens Service Center receives about 1,900 requests for pothole repairs, said Supervisor Frank Fedeli. The center has received 73 service requests so far this winter, 51 of which have been addressed by the city, he said.
"The crews and their supervisors deserve a lot of credit because they've never been so proactive," Fedeli said. "They have gone out there and aggressively addressed the issue."
Some Stamford streets, such as Baxter Avenue, Tom's Road and Oaklawn Avenue, are beyond repair, Fedeli said.
"There's a handful of streets that can't be patched up -- they will need to go on the paving list immediately," he said.
The bad news for drivers is that the worst is yet to come. Warmer weather will likely mean even more potholes.
"We haven't even had the thaw yet, when that happens this will seem like a picnic," Fedeli said. "As soon as you get to 40 degrees or so, that's when the potholes are going to pop out all over the place, like measles."
Staff Writer Kate King can be reached at email@example.com or at 203-964-2263.