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As North Texas ice thaws, potholes pock roads

Star-Telegram

Some potholes are relatively minor, like the dozens of pocks along Interstate 35W north of downtown Fort Worth that rattle the teeth and occasionally knock an alignment out of whack.

Then there are the whoppers like the 4-foot-long pit that opened up last week on Interstate 35E in Denton. The pothole on steroids, which unfolded on the South Mayhill Road overpass and exposed the bridge’s rebar, forced workers to shut down the freeway’s northbound right lane for more than nine hours.

“Y’all, there is a pothole going north toward Denton on 35 that will crack your … neck going 6 mph,” a woman who goes by the handle @ayohbee wrote last week on Twitter.

This is the season for potholes, large and small. After freezing rain, sleet or snow, the ensuing warmup causes area roads to give way. And we’ve had plenty of freezing rain, sleet and snow.

Potholes start life as normal cracks in the road, whether it’s concrete, asphalt or some other substance. During rain or snowfall, the water naturally seeps below the road surface. Then it expands during a freeze.

When the cold weather subsides, the ice melts and eventually evaporates, leaving an air pocket beneath the road, according to a Michigan Department of Transportation fact sheet. (If anyone should know about the impact of freezing weather on roads, it’s Michigan, right?)

Once the air pocket forms, often all it takes is the weight of one automobile to cave in the pavement and form a pothole.

The Texas Department of Transportation and area cities are scrambling to fix this year’s potholes. In many cases, road crews drive through an area after a storm looking for them.

But in other instances, residents take the initiative and call the municipal transportation department, or perhaps their elected officials, to draw attention to a particular pothole and ask for immediate action.

Arlington Councilwoman Kathryn Wilemon said she has already fielded a few questions about potholes in her city.

“One street over by the post office, that’s usually the first one I hear about because everyone drives that street,” she said.

Arlington has a voter-approved street maintenance fund supported by a quarter-cent sales tax that since 2002 has provided more than $123 million to fix potholes and make other relatively simple road repairs. The city deploys a “pothole patch truck” with a crew dedicated to that specific purpose, she said.

“We try within 24 to 48 hours to get those potholes fixed,” Wilemon said.

Denton‘s street department also has a crew dedicated to pothole maintenance, transportation director Mark Nelson said.

“The standard procedure after a winter weather event is for the crew to be supplemented by additional crews to identify, prioritize based on severity/safety and street traffic volume and then repair potholes as quickly as possible,” he said.

Numerous Fort Worth road maintenance crews worked Thursday, Friday and early this week repairing potholes, said Doug Wiersig, Fort Worth transportation and public works director.

Fort Worth Councilman Danny Scarth said potholes aren’t as common a source of complaints as school zone speeders and code violators. But he said fixing potholes is a priority when residents draw attention to them.

“I only hear sporadically about potholes, generally when there is a really big or dangerous one,” Scarth said in an email.

In far north Fort Worth, the state transportation department had to close the southbound main lanes of U.S. 287 at Harmon Road Tuesday, to make repairs after ice and snow caused significant damage. The agency is in the midst of an I-35W expansion, and within a few months traffic will be moved to smooth, new pavement, spokesman Michael Peters said. In the meantime, the agency is trying to get by with existing pavement, but that effort suffered a setback last week when cold weather made the surface crumble in many spots.

“With the two winter storms close together and all of the ice, it has been a challenge to maintain the existing pavement at this location,” Peters said.

Crews closed the southbound U.S. 287 main lanes and diverted traffic to a frontage road, causing delays of 10 minutes or more for many motorists. The emergency repair work was expected to be completed Tuesday night.

Gordon Dickson, 817-390-7796

Twitter: @gdickson

Report a pothole

Selected phone numbers motorists may call to report potholes:

▪ Arlington, 817-459-6550

▪ Fort Worth, 817-392-8100.

▪ Denton, 940-349-7160

▪ Bedford, 817-952-2200

▪ 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 publicworks@cityofkeller.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.

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