Transportation officials scramble to get potholes repaired



It could be a bumpy ride while local and state crews respond to the abnormally high number of potholes created this winter.

It’s a problem that Northern states know all too well: After the ice and snow melts, here come the holes. Normally, Georgia and South Carolina’s repair lists are pretty short, but this year is an exception.

Charles Gifford, the roadway superintendant in Richmond County, said that at last count there were about 300 new potholes reported since the latest winter storm in mid-February.

The Georgia and South Carolina Departments of Transportation are also reporting increases, officials said. The departments do not have overall repair costs yet.

“We have an extraordinary maintenance budget (for the fiscal year) but we’ve blown through that without a doubt,” said Leland Colvin, the chief engineer for operations at South Carolina’s DOT.

Potholes are only one of many leftover problems, including debris removal and damaged bridges.

Officials said potholes are the result of water and snow seeping into existing cracks or damage in the pavement. The freezing, then thawing, of the precipitation result in expansion and contraction of the pavement, creating pavement cavities. The weight of passing vehicles then crushes the loosened pavement, creating a pothole.

Snowplows also created more problems this year by damaging road markers and lane lines.

“We’re definitely seeing an increased deterioration of the pavement statewide,” Colvin said.

For drivers, potholes can result in anything from an unwelcome bump to flat tires, suspension damage and steering system misalignment.

Richmond County has only one four-person pothole repair team, which Gifford described as “one of the best, most productive crews,” but still the repair list is long.

He said it isn’t as simple as people might think.

“Sometimes we have to reinforce the hole and sometimes we have to cut it out and square it up,” he said. “It just depends. It isn’t a matter of just coming out and throwing some asphalt in.”

Depending on the size, some jobs could take several hours.

“We’re trying to respond as quickly as we can,” Colvin said.

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