Friday, March 13, 2015

TOP STORY >> Severe potholes getting repaired

Leader staff writer

The northbound lanes of Hwy. 67/167 were closed down during Friday’s rush hour between Redmond Road and the Main Street overpass for emergency pothole repairs.

Danny Straessle with the state Highway Department said vehicles were slowing down to 10 miles an hour in efforts to avoid or traverse the field of potholes in the area, the result of three waves of icy winter storms followed by more than two inches of rain Thursday and Friday.

Straessle called it a dangerous situation and, with the traffic already slowed to a halt, stopping traffic to quickly patch the holes was the most prudent thing to do. The repair work caused traffic to back up into Sherwood.

Mayor Gary Fletcher agreed. “It’s an inconvenient, but a small price to pay for the safety of our residents.”

The highway department also planned to close the southbound lanes near Vandenberg later Friday night to make quick repairs on the numerous potholes in that section.”

The mayor said he has been working with the state Highway Department all week to keep up with the repairs. “The weather just hasn’t been conductive for them. Throwing down a cold patch as a Band-Aid just isn’t going to hold much so they are using a hot mix so it will last longer,” the mayor said.

James Construction, the company responsible for replacing two bridges and widening the highway as part of a $41.6 million project, took care of milling and re-asphalting a pothole section on the highway near Main Street earlier in the week, causing lanes — one at a time — to be closed for two days during the morning traffic rush.

Straessle said that kind of emergency repair work is in the contract and the company had all the equipment already on site, but the potholes that stopped traffic Friday were outside the construction area. So the Highway Department had to do the repairs, not the construction company.

Straessle said, ultimately, the Highway Department is responsible for all repairs.

The northbound lanes of Hwy. 67/167 from Redmond Road to near the closed James Street exit, which became a minefield of potholes with each icy wave, was one of the hardest-hit sections of the highway. Quick patchwork was done between the second and third waves, but the repairs didn’t hold with the onslaught of a third wave and worsened.

And city hall heard about it.

The mayor said it was hard to tell people calling that the city couldn’t do anything about the highway issue. “We can’t do anything on the highway or the frontage roads,” Fletcher said.

Straessle said, “We have a number of paving and milling machines, but they are spread out through the state, and you have to basically sign up to have one in your area.”

That is the reason there is still a problem on the southbound Hwy. 67/167 lanes south of Vandenberg, he added. “We can’t get a machine over there until next week,” Straessle said. The Highway Department wants to properly make the repairs so they will last, he noted.

Straessle also said, this year, the Highway Department used very little sand on the highways. “We went to strictly rock salt, and it did a great job of melting the ice and then with the rains the salt dissolved so we don’t have that big cleanup that we’ve had in the past.”

One reason for the onslaught of potholes, according to the highway official, was the closeness of the three storms. “The few days we had in between we had to use for resupply, maintenance and repairs of our vehicles,” he said, adding that the winter of 2013 actually produced more bad weather. But it was spread out, making it easier to make the repairs.