PBOT Plans Pothole March Madness

As Portland slowly emerges from winter into spring, the Portland Bureau of Transportation is taking on one of the top road issues that commonly plagues people driving, biking, walking, and rolling – potholes.

Potholes are an inevitability in any city that experiences freezing temperatures. Potholes are caused by water entering cracks in the asphalt and freezing and expanding underneath the pavement surface. This weakens the road and makes it vulnerable to damage and potholes.

After a severe winter storm like the one Portland experienced in January, the problem can be even more widespread after frozen pavement has been driven on by snowplows and other heavy vehicles like buses and fire apparatus with heavy chains for the duration of the storm. Between Jan. 24 (following PBOT’s winter storm response) and Feb. 26, PBOT crews filled almost 3,000 potholes across the city. Crews fill potholes within 30 days of them being reported. When crews report to a reported pothole location, they will also fill any other potholes in the vicinity while onsite.

On March 4-15, PBOT’s Street Systems Division will conduct a pothole “March Madness” campaign -- diverting crews from a variety of regular work and reorganizing them into seven crews working exclusively on pothole repairs and small grind and pave projects known as “milling.” Four pothole crews will proactively focus their efforts on streets east of 82nd Avenue, where the city receives fewer pothole reports from the public but where we know there are hundreds of potholes. A fifth pothole crew will repair reported potholes in other areas of the city. The final two crews within the Streets System Division will perform medium and large milling work on pre-identified street segments east of 82nd Avenue.

Milling is done when there is a lot of failing asphalt in a segment due to heavy use. Instead of filling each pothole individually, the crews use a milling machine or cold planer to grind down the road material in a line, collecting it in a dump truck as it goes. They then sweep the area to remove debris before laying down adhesive that helps the new asphalt adhere to the surface. Finally, asphalt is dumped into the segment and crews shovel and rake it into place by hand before using a roller machine to pack it into place.

“I’m proud of the maintenance crews at PBOT and their dedication to street repair,” said Transportation Director Millicent Williams. “While this work is done year-round on a regular basis, I look forward to seeing the impact our crews can make with a focused effort on repairing potholes and problem spots over the next two weeks.”

Source: PBOT

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