City sees more potholes than ever following a wacky winter

Posted: March 24, 2014

ONLY ABOUT once every 30 years does Philadelphia see the kind of winter just past, with 19 separate snowfalls and extreme temperature fluctuations. And that's why the city is on track to fill the most potholes in its history, city officials say.

Readers may have noticed the "Crater Philly" graphic that ran in the Daily News for weeks, with many writing in to share their tumultuous tales of breaks in the blacktop, with their cars taking the beating.

Typical is this plea from Stacey Scanlan: "Please urgently fix the potholes on City Ave. from just before [St. Joseph's] campus up to the end. Especially where City Ave. ends and the lanes go to Ridge Ave., Lincoln Drive and Kelly Drive. Where they all merge and branch off on the bridge is a nightmare."

Streets Commissioner David Perri sat down with the Daily News yesterday to explain why Scanlan and thousands of other drivers are facing these nightmares.

"It's unusual for the city to have a very cold winter at the same time that we have a very snowy winter. I've never seen it in my lifetime," Perri said.

"This was an extremely unusual circumstance. It's unprecedented in Philadelphia to happen on a repeated basis in one season. It did a tremendous amount of damage to our infrastructure. You see it in the number of potholes, damage to our traffic signals and the ice storms that have caused problems."

"This winter was the gift that keeps on giving," he quipped.

Potholes are formed when water finds its way into cracks and crevices in the pavement. When temperatures fall below freezing, the water turns into ice, which expands and pushes the asphalt up, breaking it apart.

Beneath the 6-inch layer of asphalt on city streets is a 6-inch layer of concrete, then a layer of stone. A pothole is considered a defect in the asphalt layer that does not penetrate the concrete.

According to the Streets Department, since Jan. 1, the city has filled 20,160 potholes - three times as many as last year.

"We're on track this year to be the most potholes ever recorded in Philadelphia history," Perri said.

On average, he said, it costs about $22 to fill a pothole, which means it will take about $443,520 out of the city's $12 million paving budget.

To report a pothole, Perri suggested calling 3-1-1. He said the Streets Department will react quickly, filling the reported pothole and any around it.

"We've taken close to 4,000 complaints this year on potholes," he said.

"Our goal is to fix every single one of them. There's no reason why they can't all be fixed. Once we get into April, the generation of new potholes will decrease tremendously."

Now, Perri said, the city is on to its spring-cleanup stage. An engineering consultant was hired to review the city's snow operations and make recommendations on how to improve them next year.

The Streets Department is also surveying residents on the effectiveness of the city's snow-fighting efforts, and next season, Perri said, residents will be able to get snow updates via text on their cellphones.

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