Tuesday October 6th, 2015 12:32PM

Road repairs loom following harsh winter

By Ken Stanford Reporter
Following one of the harshest winters in recent years, local and state transportation departments nationwide are turning their attention to repairing the damage left behind by Mother Nature.

One of the more common problems is potholes.

It's not unusual for water from rain or melting snow to seep into cracks in pavement and then freeze, expanding and causing the pavement crumble. As more traffic passes over the damaged pavement, the damage worsens and creates an ever-enlarging hole in the road.

Locally, the Hall County Public Works Department is reporting that damage to county roads, often in the form of potholes, is worse this year than following recent winters.

"The last two years have not been as significant as this year because of the milder weather in those previous years," said Jimmy Hightower, Hall County Road Maintenance Superintendent. "We also have used a cold mix asphalt product this year that has allowed us to make repairs during lower temperatures."

Hightower said recently the county had twelve pothole repair projects pending, along its 2,200 miles of roads.

"We have repaired 365 potholes since January 1," he added, "at a cost of $9,500."

Hightower said the winter-related problems don't end with the arrival of spring.

"It's common for the volumes to go up until after spring...heavy traffic on roadways continue to cause loose asphalt that's cracked to come up and create pot-holes after the winter freeze-thaw cycles are over with."

Hightower said the county's gravel roads have also been impacted.

As for the the city of Gainesville, Public Works Director David Dockery says that, so far, the pothole situation "has not been significantly different than previous winters. We would expect that more will develop as we move into spring with warmer weather, flexing of asphalt, etc."

Dockery said he had not tallied the number of potholes repaired so far this year.

"Generally, to do an average pothole repair, it takes a four-man crew approximately one hour utilizing one-fourth to one-half ton of asphalt. Total average cost per pothole repair would be about $100."

Meanwhile, Teri Pope, spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation office in Gainesville, which covers several north Georgia counties, says they "haven't really seen any (potholes) and haven't gotten reports (of any) on state routes or interstates."

It's unclear exactly how much the Georgia Department of Transportation will end up spending on winter wear and tear on state roads, according to spokeswoman Natalie Dale, who said recently the agency is applying for federal assistance and is still putting together cost estimates.

The typical U.S. vehicle owner spends an extra $335 a year on repairs caused by rough roads, while in large cities the average is $746, says Tony Dorsey of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

And by all indications this year's crop of potholes will be one of the most bountiful ever. In Michigan, where frost lines extend up to 80 inches below ground, Department of Transportation Director Kirk Steudle has warned legislators to brace for "one of the biggest pavement breakouts we've ever seen in our lifetime."

(The Associated Press contributed to this story. See below for links to earlier stories.)
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