Road crews still battling winter's woes

Posted: August 24, 2014

Summer is coming to a close, but some of the region's road crews might be wondering if last winter is ever going to end.

"We're still in the midst of treating roads that suffered extensive damage during the winter," said Eugene Blaum, spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

From Dec. 1 through Aug. 14, he said, PennDot used 15,922 tons of patching material on the region's roads - about double what it used during the comparable periods in the previous two years combined.

The New Jersey Department of Transportation has repaired 224,000 potholes since Jan. 1, spokesman Stephen Schapiro said, undertaking a major blitz at the end of February in response to "extraordinarily high numbers" of potholes.

In Pennsylvania, had it not been for Act 89 highway funds, Blaum said, many roads still would be bearing the battle scars from a historically disruptive winter.

To refresh unpleasant memories, the 68 inches of snow measured officially at Philadelphia International Airport during the winter of 2013-14 represented the second-highest seasonal total on record.

And almost none of that fell during the most devastating storm of the winter - the Feb. 5 ice-lacquering that ripped down power lines and tree branches and shut down whole towns for days. Peco Energy set a record for winter outages this season, with more than 820,000.

"It was the winter from hell," recalled Rick Crecraft of Crecraft for Tree Craft, a local tree pruning and removal service.

Looking around the region, "you can still see winter tree damage that has not been cleaned up yet," said Shawn Kister, Longwood Gardens grounds division leader.

But for millions of motorists, the toll on the region's highways is where the rubber meets the road in terms of winter's legacy.

The road-repair season has been "as bad as we've seen in many years," Blaum said. "It wasn't confined to one location."

In the city, some of the worst damage occurred on I-95 near Philadelphia International Airport and on the Schuylkill Expressway between Spring Garden and 30th Streets and Vare and Passyunk Avenues.

The ravages of winter were evident on the Blue Route and on the West Chester Pike, and in the canyon-esque potholes on Lancaster Avenue on the Main Line from Devon to Paoli.

That stretch of Lancaster Avenue recently has been resurfaced.

What made the winter so punishing was its duration and tenacity. Philadelphia experienced four snowfalls of eight inches or more, starting on Dec. 8. Never before had the city recorded even three snows of six inches or more in a single winter.

Blaum said it was not unusual for PennDot crews to be working in August. But usually, they are "prepping" for the season to come - not cleaning up from one that most people would like to forget.


BY THE NUMBERS

15,922

Tons of PennDot patch material used since Dec. 1.

8,266

Combined tons of patch material used in same period in previous two years.

224,000

Potholes repaired in New Jersey since Jan. 1.


lkochenour@sch.org

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