The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

April 11, 2014

A bumper crop of potholes

OTTUMWA — The nice weather has been putting the bad roads on display. Officials say good: It gives us a chance to fix them.

“Every city is going through the same thing,” said Larry Seals, Ottumwa Public Works director. “It has been an unusual winter … it was brutal.”

This town isn't alone in its pothole bonanza.

Iowa DOT District Engineer Jim Armstrong says his crews have seen potholes on roads and bridges across the 20 counties he’s responsible for maintaining, including Jefferson and Wapello counties.

“Now that the weather is better, we’re able to get out there and make repairs,” Armstrong said.

The main enemy of the road repair crews is freezing water. Seals said that when there are cracks in the pavement, water gets down into them. Then, during a cold winter like the one in Ottumwa, the water freezes, and expands. When it thaws it leaves behind a hollow spot.

That, said the Iowa DOT engineer, is when the second big cause of potholes comes into play: traffic.

Armstrong said potholes get clipped by snowplows or truck traffic, making them worse.

Seals said that even before the nice spring weather came around there were crews out making temporary fixes to some of the potholes around the city. Now that the temperature is finally above freezing, the patch crews are using an injection patching technique and hot mix asphalt.

The DOT has machines like the one owned by Ottumwa, which can put down material and cover it with asphalt. Whether the patch is permanent or temporary depends on the material used, the whims of nature and amount of traffic. Some “patch jobs,” Armstrong said, can last two or three years.

“We're going to be running these machines nonstop for the next few months, sealing and filling potholes,” Armstrong said.

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