Pothole repair likely on back burner for county, state crews
Ongoing snow removal trumps growing problem
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Following the recent snowstorms, potholes have become a growing concern for commuters, although the hazards will likely not be dealt with until after snow removal has been completed.
While a number of factors can contribute to the development of potholes, the problem is particularly noticeable after a snowstorm, said county spokeswoman Esther Bowring. As the remaining ice and snow on roads thaws during the day, water seeps into existing cracks in the asphalt and pavement, only to freeze and expand during the colder nights, contributing to the cavities that have been popping up along state and county roads.
With snow removal being such a high priority for most areas of the county, most organizations including the county's department of transportation and the Maryland State Highway Administration will not begin mending potholes until after the streets and sidewalks are cleared.
"Snow removal and clearing streets is our top priority, but the reality is that you've got piles of snow next to the roads that are melting, [contributing to potholes]," Bowring said Tuesday. "We have our supervisors who are out there supervising the snow removal, and they all have pothole refill mix in their crew trucks, so if they see something really bad, they'll try to stop and get it filled."
Snow removal is also the major concern for many of the county's urban districts, including downtown areas of Silver Spring and Wheaton, said Joe Calloway, the chief of operations for the Wheaton Urban District.
"The problem for us with this is if you go to this pothole, it's got to be dry, so that's a problem we're going to face for the next few weeks," Calloway said Tuesday. "The freezing and thawing is going to continue to happen, so if we go out and repair them today there's no guarantee that they wouldn't pop right back up again."
Calloway mentioned the stretch of Georgia Avenue near University Boulevard as particularly troublesome. Urban districts such as Wheaton and downtown Silver Spring tend to a lot of their own potholes on county roads, only turning to another agency if the holes are deemed too large to handle.
"Some of them do feel like little battlefields down on Georgia Avenue on my way into work," he said. "There are a lot of little ones so it can get to be a little bumpy in some places."
As for state roads those designated by a number such as Route 29 or 97 (Colesville and Georgia Avenues, respectively) SHA is likewise focusing on snow removal efforts before turning to potholes, said spokesman David Buck. Top priorities for SHA will be clearing snow from buried turn lanes and opening up intersections where a driver's line of sight could be blocked by snow.
"If we get a call about a pothole, it is not a top priority right now ... we're fully deployed now in storm cleanup," he said Tuesday. "If there's something larger that needs immediate attention, we'll get that done as soon as possible [but] you can't do a permanent patch until spring. You put in a little hot mix, you pat it down and fill it up until a more permanent fill can be made."
Colleen Clay, a resident of Takoma Park and the city's Ward 2 council member, cited the high number of potholes she has noticed appearing on state and county roads following the storms, particularly on University Boulevard and Route 410.
"It is certainly clear to me driving up 410 to Bethesda ... and driving University Boulevard westbound and on the way eastbound as well, the roads have gotten measurably worse over the snowstorm," she said. "Many new potholes have opened up and in many places the top layer of the asphalt is just gone."
She likened parts of University to a back country road, adding that while she understands county and state crews are prioritizing snow removal, many of Takoma Park's pothole troubles in particular on Ethan Allen Avenue, a state-maintained road the hazards preceded the snow.
"I think moving forward you're going to see a pretty good analysis on how the city responded to the storm and the damage that has been caused by it, including potholes and other issues," she said.
-Residents who come across a pothole on a county-maintained road are encouraged to visit the county's Web site, www.montgomerycountymd
/Pothole.asp, where a form is available to have the problem addressed.
-Residents with concerns about a pothole on a state road are encouraged to visit the SHA Web site for pothole repairs at www.roads.maryland.gov.
-Potholes found on non-state roads in municipalities can be reported to that municipality's public works department or other officials.