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Patching potholes: Managing the repairs

Batavia Street Division employee Joe Barkei fills potholes along Route 31 in Batavia.
Batavia Street Division employee Joe Barkei fills potholes along Route 31 in Batavia.

City street departments have had their fill of plowing snow this year, and with the repeated freezing and thawing of area roads, they now can expect to get their fill of patching potholes, too.

Each year, the roadway nuisances crop up and cause potential headaches for drivers, especially if hitting one results in vehicle damage. Repeat freeze and thaw cycles cause road pavements to break down and form potholes, especially on roads that already are in bad shape.

Batavia Street Superintendent Scott Haines said this area escaped a lot of precipitation and fluctuations in temperature in the first half of winter, but more severe weather settled in during the second half of the season.

“Over the last month, we’ve seen a very large amount of fluctuation with rain, freezing, snow, refreezing overnight – things of that nature,” he said. “That really increases potential for potholes to form.”

Despite uncooperative weather toward the end of the season, Dan Dinges, director of Geneva’s Public Works Department, said this is a typical year for potholes, and he doesn’t expect to see any more or less than usual.

He said street departments use a temporary fix this time of the year until asphalt plants open up in April and May, when more permanent patches are applied. Road crews work to fix potholes and resurface roads all spring and summer until asphalt plants close in November.

“That takes care of a lot of issues,” Dinges said. “If you get a permanent patch in there, hopefully you don’t have to do it for a while.”

The temporary material is cold patch workable blacktop, said Dan Rowe, public service division manager for the St. Charles Public Works Department. He said while it’s not a full course of blacktop, the patch serves as a temporary fix until road crews can revisit potholes to make a permanent repair in the spring or summer. Steel plates sometimes act as a temporary fix, too.

He said potholes crop up just about everywhere, and the roads with the worst potholes are usually older road surfaces with a lot of traffic. If there’s construction, that increases the chances of creating potholes, he said. But filling those potholes sometimes isn’t the city’s responsibility, and Route 64 is an example of that because the state and county are responsible for certain portions of that road.

Haines said more potholes tend to form on the southern portion of Route 31, mostly because of its aged surface and high traffic volume.

“Any time you have a road like [Route] 31 that’s kind of on its descent, if you will, the edges of the road are starting to fall apart,” he said. “We’ve seen an increase in potholes on the south end, especially, and everywhere else it’s average.”

Rowe said there are various ways street departments find potholes that need to be filled. He said sometimes street crews will take note of them while they’re doing other projects, and the department also depends on citizens to point them out.

“We rely upon our citizens a lot to call the main office and report them,” he said. “And we have a program where we send crews out and we run a whole area.”

On the city website, St. Charles encourages people to call public works directly at 630-377-4405 to report a pothole.

In addition to learning about potholes through citizen complaints, Dinges said Geneva street crews take on road repairs section by section, and crews that are out plowing tend to take note of where they see them.

There seems to be no shortage of them so far this winter.

I would say pretty much every week we’re doing some sort of pothole patching during the winter,” Dinges said.

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