The rain was still coming down hard when calls began pouring in to 911 dispatchers in Fort Worth and other neighboring cities.
Potholes, a common problem in the region after heavy precipitation, were once again wreaking havoc on North Texas roads last week after more than 8 inches of cold rain fell. And a couple of days after the rain subsided, some roads still look like Swiss cheese.
In a year of record rainfall and flooding, those pocks in the road have been a common site on area highways. City and state officials say they are constantly scrambling to fill potholes as soon as possible after they are reported.
But the task can become difficult, especially on roads under construction, including Interstate 35W in far north Fort Worth, where on Friday night police fielded at least three calls of motorists stranded after their vehicles crashed into a giant pothole taking up nearly an entire lane near the northbound Basswood Boulevard exit.
“Construction crews did repair the potholes at Basswood. We had some spots on East Loop 820 that we repaired, but otherwise no widespread problems,” said Val Lopez, Texas Department of Transportation spokesman. “Crews will continue to monitor the roadways and make repairs as necessary.”
On I-35W near downtown Fort Worth, a private developer is also keeping a close eye on pavement conditions as workers rebuild and modernize the corridor.
“We will continue to monitor and patch when needed,” said Robert Hinkle, spokesman for developer North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners.
That company has invested more than $1 million this year in filling holes along I-35W to maintain safety for motorists, even though much of the patched-up roadway will eventually be removed and replaced with a modernized road. Work on the I-35W corridor is expected to continue through 2018, possibly 2020 if, as expected, the state agency and the developer agree to extend the work another eight miles to the north.
Complaints about potholes are nearly as common as complaints about traffic congestion on I-35W, Fort Worth transportation czar Bryan Beck has said. He said some of the problem areas near the 28th Street and Long Avenue bridges, as well as near Northside Drive.
Most of the holes in the road are relatively small — usually not big enough to swallow an entire tire. However, earlier this year a hole nearly big enough to engulf a car opened up on County Road 704C near Cleburne.
And in June, a large pothole in a westbound lane of Interstate 20 near Belt Line Road in Grand Prairie caused enough damage to immobilize several cars.
In Blue Mound, just north of Fort Worth, a pothole at least 8 feet long and 3 feet wide — large enough to rip out the suspension of just about any vehicle — appeared on a residential street.
Money for potholes
Some cities have dedicated funds for pothole repair. In Arlington, a voter-approved street maintenance fund supported by a quarter-cent sales tax has provided more than $123 million to fix potholes and make other relatively simple road repairs since 2002, officials said.
Arlington deploys a “pothole patch truck” with a full-time crew that patrols the streets, looking for problems.
The Denton and Fort Worth street departments also have crews dedicated to potholes.
Anatomy of a pothole
Potholes start life as normal cracks in the road, whether it’s concrete, asphalt or some other material. During rain or snowfall, the water seeps below the road surface. Then it expands during a freeze or, even if temperatures stay above freezing. When the weather subsides, the water eventually runs off or evaporates, leaving an air pocket beneath the road.
Once the air pocket forms, often all it takes is the weight of one automobile to cave in the pavement and form a pothole.
More rain (or ice) on the way?
The pothole problem isn’t likely to go away anytime soon.
Weather forecasters are looking at long-term models that indicate that the next couple of weeks should be relatively dry in North Texas. But models are showing the possibility of wetter-than-normal weather over the next three to four weeks, according to the National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.
It’s far too early to project whether freezing temperatures might accompany any wet weather that comes the region’s way this winter. But even if the precipitation is just rain, there’s a good chance potholes will follow.
This report includes information from the Star-Telegram archives.
How to report potholes
▪ Arlington: 817-459-6550
▪ Fort Worth: 817-392-8100.
▪ Denton: 940-349-7160
▪ Grapevine: 817-410 3330
▪ North Richland Hills: 817-427-6000
▪ Mansfield: Visit Mansfieldtexas.gov and fill out a "report a pothole" form.
▪ Keller: 817-743-4200 (or email email@example.com)
▪ Statewide, for potholes on highways, residents may visit the Texas Department of Transportation online at www.txdot.gov and fill out a "contact us" online form