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Spring potholes

Every spring brings some potholes to Jamestown streets. This year's cool spring weather seems to be bringing more breaks to the pavement than normal. John M. Steiner / The Sun

Along with delays in spring planting and yard and garden work, we can add an increase in the number of potholes to the list of the problems caused by the cool spring weather, according to Travis Dillman, project engineer for the Jamestown Street Department with Interstate Engineering.

"It is the spring of potholes after a tough winter," he said. "The more freeze-thaw cycles you have, the worse it gets. You see some (potholes) every year, but this season seems to be worse."

Water expands as it freezes at night, causing the road materials to shift. When temperatures rise to above the freezing mark during the day, the same materials shift again. These movements can cause the asphalt to break, creating a pothole.

Harold Sad, Jamestown street foreman, said crews have been filling potholes "between storms" for the last several months. The department has used about $5,000 worth of the mix it uses to repair breaks in the pavement and has more on order.

"The frost hasn't come out yet so there will be more spots," he said. "Those 'alligator' spots will be turning into potholes after the frost goes out."

Sad said alligator spots are areas where the pavement is cracked in multiple directions, creating a rough look to the road surface that is currently still in place.

The age of the pavement also plays a part in the pothole problem. Streets in southwest Jamestown seem to have the most problems this spring, Sad said. That area is scheduled for work this summer as part of the city's seven-year rotation of paving districts.

"Those streets have been at least seven years since repairs," Sad said. "Some of them have been 14 years."

Potholes in southwest Jamestown are being temporarily patched with ground asphalt rather than the more expensive mix used for permanent repairs in other parts of the city, Sad said.

While potholes make for a rough ride, they can damage a vehicle, according to Casey Elhard, store manager for Northwest Tire in Jamestown.

"They take a toll on alignments and can damage the belts of tires," he said. "Every time you hit a pothole it can throw your vehicle out of alignment."

Elhard said drivers might see the steering wheel off center or the vehicle pulls to one side or the other if it is out of alignment. This causes uneven wear on the tires and can be dangerous.

"If a belt (within the tire) breaks they will feel a wobble at low or high speeds," he said.

Elhard recommended drivers slow down when they can't avoid potholes in the street.

Dillman said there isn't much that can be done to prevent potholes at this time.

"Filling with patch material keeps water from getting to the subgrade which would make the pothole worse," he said. "Ultimately, we need spring to actually happen."

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