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Pothole season could last until June

Frozen ground means annual woes will last

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While it’s not clear whether the Jets will be playing hockey well into April, another treasured Winnipeg institution will still be going strong in May or even June.

The 2014 pothole season is expected to last well into the spring, thanks to the unusual cold this winter and the resulting depth of the frost in the soil.

"We’re going to see a pothole season that’s probably a lot longer," said Jim Berezowsky, the City of Winnipeg’s street-maintenance manager. "There is the anticipation this will be one of the worst springs."

Potholes are a regular seasonal occurrence, thanks to the freeze-thaw cycles that allow water to expand and contract, creating cracks in asphalt, concrete and even the underlying soil.

‘There is the anticipation this will be one of the worst springs’

— Jim Berezowsky, the city’s street-maintenance manager

Since the city only recently experienced its first freeze-thaw cycle of the season, many more potholes are bound to emerge later on, Berezowsky said. The city has fielded about 460 pothole complaints so far this calendar year, with roughly 100 coming in over the past week.

The city spends an average of $1.5 million on pothole-patching every year. In 2013, when spring didn’t arrive until late April, the city spent $2.5 million on temporary patches.

As of Tuesday, 10 to 12 city crews were shovelling cold-mix asphalt into problem holes. The cold mix, which can be stored outside all winter, is heated indoors overnight before being trucked out to city streets and shovelled by hand.

The cold-mix patches can last as little as an hour or as long as an entire season, depending on the traffic volume on the street in question.

Once daytime highs are consistently above freezing, the city will deploy a fleet of a dozen pothole-patching machines, which use elongated arms to apply a mix of emulsified asphalt and natural stone. These patches are also temporary fixes that may last as little as an hour or as long as a season.

Once the ground has completely defrosted and has released all its moisture — expected to take longer this spring — the city will apply a mix of hot asphalt and chipped stone to problem potholes. The hot-asphalt patches may last two or three years, Berezowsky said.

There is no such thing as a permanent pothole patch. The only permanent solution for badly pitted streets such as St. James Street, Pembina Highway or Logan Avenue are full rehabilitations or reconstructions, Berezowsky said.

In 2014, the city plans to spend a total of $83.3 million on street and lane renewals, up from $49.5 million in 2013. The city has borrowed money and increased property taxes to help cover the additional work.

Nonetheless, motorists continue to bemoan the state of city streets. Earlier this week, CAA Manitoba warned this spring will be the worst pothole season ever and demanded the city present a strategy for dealing with the craters.

The city abandoned a search for a better pothole patch in 2010 when officials determined it made more financial sense to fix roads on a permanent basis.

While potholes are emerging now, motorists who prefer to avoid the road and cry in their beer instead will have to wait until the second week of April to buy a case of Pothole Porter, a seasonal creation of Winnipeg’s Half Pints Brewery.

Half Pints plans to make 3,000 litres of the 7.9 per cent alcohol brew this spring, company co-owner Nicole Barry said. The product label implores consumers to "stare into the abyss" of a Winnipeg pothole.

bartley.kives@freepress.mb.ca

Winnipeg Free Press Pothole Locator

 

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