The snow has just about melted, but much to the dismay of area drivers and cyclists, those thick blankets are ceding ground to yet another commuting nemesis — the pothole.
To say they are far less welcome than daffodils and cherry blossoms is an understatement. The roadway craters are throwing alignments out of whack, damaging rims and puncturing tires. Is it worse than it was in 2015? 2014? 2010? Hard to know. After all, it’s still early.
But AAA Mid-Atlantic seems to think this year’s crop might be larger in size. In a news release the automobile club noted:
Now that all that snow cover is melting, motorists are striking the biggest potholes in years, it seems.
We can’t vouch for that, but we can say more than a few folks have come to us with complaints that the formerly snow-covered roadways have now transformed into moonscapes.
“There’s definitely been an uptick in reports,” said Esther Bowering, spokeswoman for the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, which has crews from seven different depots on pothole-filling duty.
Reports are rolling into officials in the District as well.
“We are starting to hear about potholes,” confirmed Terry Owens, spokesman for the D.C. Department of Transportation. “DDOT has received over 100 requests for pothole repairs in the past week.”
Owens said crews spent this past weekend filling potholes along 16th Street, North Capitol Street and on the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge.
In the District, the public is encouraged to help city crews locate potholes by calling 311, using the 311 app on smartphones, or logging onto dc.gov. Motorists can also report pothole locations via the Waze app. Owens said that thanks to a new partnership, the city can access the data and generate service requests for repairs.
But some area officials said despite perception, the number of reported potholes isn’t necessarily higher than in previous years, but they may be more noticeable now because of the massive blizzard that dumped record snowfall in parts of the region.
AAA Mid-Atlantic estimates that half of car owners experienced “vehicle damage due to potholes” from 2009 to 2014. And while AAA’s driving experts advise motorists to slow down and drive around the divots whenever possible, we know at times that’s just not possible.
Jennifer McCord, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Northern Virginia division, said there have been roughly 575 pothole reports since the beginning of the year — that number is actually down slightly from the same time period last year when 753 potholes were reported. McCord speculated that might be because snow arrived later in the D.C. region this season than last. But she said people should be sure to report problems.
“We’ll continue to have crews monitoring and they will work to fill them as quickly as possible, since it is a safety issue,” she said.
And AAA advises drivers not to feel discouraged if a pothole reappears.
As a rule of thumb, “permanent pothole repairs require warmer weather and will be made in the spring,” officials with area transportation departments tell AAA. As the sun melts the snow and the rain falls on the remnant mounds of snow, more will crop up. The rain showers this week will expedite the melting of the snow-packs and the spawning of potholes. That’s because potholes occur when snow and ice melt as part of the freeze-thaw cycle.
That may explain why many area transportation departments, including D.C. and Montgomery County, launch their high-profile pothole campaigns in the spring.
They’re popping up all over – if you see a pothole on an SHA highway, we invite you to report it at https://t.co/9bnETzmu8Y. cg
— MD State Highway Adm (@MDSHA) February 4, 2016
Use this link to report potholes on numbered routes to the Maryland State Highway Administration. In Montgomery County, reports can be made by dialing 311 or online here. In Prince George’s County, report pothole issues online here or by calling 301-499-8520.
In Virginia, you can report them online here or by calling 1-800-367-ROAD (7623).
In the District, report potholes online here or by calling 311. This time of year, District officials aim to repair potholes within three business days (72 hours) from the time they are reported. If repairs haven’t been done within that time frame, people can call 202-727-1000. You can also report portholes using the traffic app Waze.