Governor Bob McDonnell today directed the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to focus efforts during March on patching the thousands of potholes giving motorists bumpy reminders of the hard winter Virginia has endured. This winter’s repeated historic blasts of snow, ice and rain coupled with colder-than-average temperatures have resulted in a proliferation of potholes on Virginia’s roads.
Following the Governor’s directive, VDOT will make pothole repair its top priority between March 1 and March 31. The agency will use state crews and contractors to conduct a pothole blitz aimed at quickly identifying and repairing roadway hazards. VDOT is also asking for citizen’s help to identify potholes as they form to speed repairs.
Speaking about the effort, Governor McDonnell noted, “VDOT’s top priorities are motorist safety and emergency response. Potholes are a roadway hazard and a nuisance for every person driving our highways, that’s why we’re declaring a Pothole Blitz this March. We are going all-out to repair these pavements and make traveling safer and more comfortable for Virginians.”
How Potholes Form
Potholes form when moisture seeps into pavement, freezes, expands and thaws. This cycle weakens the pavement. The weight of traffic loosens the pavement, and over time the pavement begins to crumble.
A winter of heavy snow or rain and several freeze-thaw cycles may result in a bumper crop of potholes in the spring. Crews have been working throughout the winter to patch the worst potholes, but pavement repair efforts have been hindered by repeated snowstorms and the frequent freeze-thaw cycle that is creating potholes faster than crews can repair them.
Patching operations are prioritized by pothole severity and location, with some severe potholes on high traffic roads being filled within 24 hours, and most potholes on higher traffic roads being repaired within four days.
Work crews are assigned a series of routes and repair all potholes as they progress through the routes. On multiple-lane roads, the work is generally accomplished as a mobile operation one lane at a time. Repairs are made with both cold and hot mix asphalt depending upon the temperatures and the availability of materials. Hot mix is the preferred material as it is more permanent, but it is not effective until temperatures are consistently over 50 degrees.
Some areas and types of pavements may require more extensive repairs. In these cases, crews will make temporary repairs immediately and will schedule more extensive reconstruction work at a later date.
VDOT has budgeted $45.8 million for asphalt and concrete patching for fiscal year 2010 (which runs from July 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010). Despite budget challenges, VDOT has not cut back on pothole repair because it is considered a safety program.
How Citizens Can Help
“Motorists traveling across Virginia know best where the worst potholes lie. We want citizens to help us identify potholes as they form so that VDOT crews can quickly be dispatched to make repairs,” McDonnell said. “VDOT crews, state police and contractors report potholes as they travel for their duties. This March, we are asking for citizen’s help to identify these hazards. All Virginians can be a part of this Pothole Blitz so we can work together to improve everyone’s safety and comfort as they travel through our great Commonwealth.”
To report a pothole, citizens should visit www.VirginiaDOT.org or call VDOT’s Highway Helpline at 800-367-7689 (ROAD). TTY users, call 711.
VDOT repairs potholes on state-maintained roads only, which include interstate highways and most primary and secondary roads. Local governments are responsible for repairing potholes on city streets as well as on roadways in Henrico and Arlington counties. If citizens see a pothole on a city street or an Arlington or Henrico County road, they should contact their local public works agency.
Safe driving tips, pothole patching videos, and other useful information on potholes is also available on VDOT’s Web site at http://www.virginiadot.org/info/faq-potholes.asp.