The rubber really hit the road Friday outside a McPhillips Street restaurant as a mayoral hopeful showed off what he claims is a permanent fix for potholes.
Mike Vogiatzakis, a funeral home director who plans to run for mayor, said he believes he's found a pothole-fixing process that can work in our tough winter climate.
At a news conference he hosted, Pelletpatch, a hot-mix asphalt-patching compound that contains rubber from recycled tires, was used by the company's New Jersey director of sales, Saverio Marra, to patch a pothole in the approach to the Thunderbird Restaurant.
"I'm confident. They drove right across the country to come here to show you there's a solution to potholes," said Vogiatzakis. "I guarantee you that today, we found the solution."
Marra, who, Vogiatzakis said, paid his own way north, worked alone -- without gloves despite the -21 wind chill -- to patch an approximately 40-centimetre pothole within a few minutes.
"It's very durable and the rubber gives it elasticity, which allows it to expand and contract," Marra said, noting it is being used in locations in Newfoundland and in cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati and Las Vegas.
The pellets are made of asphalt cement, shredded tires (called crumb rubber) and millings (waste asphalt and sand material from old roads).
"Because it's going in hot, it's going to bind," Marra said, adding the Pelletpatch fix lasts about 40 per cent longer than other methods. "We've done a lot of potholes on I-75 (an eastern U.S. highway) which comes right up here to the north. Those potholes are still patched from last year. It cures fast so you don't have long wait times."
After dumping several pails of mix into his Asphalt Patch Master machine -- which heated it to about 180 C -- Marra shovelled the compound into the pothole and packed it with a roller.
A semi-trailer truck on standby rolled up and drove over it multiple times within minutes of its application.
Right now, the City of Winnipeg uses a cold-mix patching material during the late winter and early spring to fill potholes. It is left for traffic to compact it.
"It's a temporary fix, and the most significant part about it is that it is fairly low-cost and productive so they are able to fill many of those potholes every day without putting workers in front of traffic. It's all done from inside the truck, so it's a lot safer that way," said Ahmed Shalaby, the University of Manitoba civil engineering professor who leads the U of M's pavement research group.
"Using a hot mix to fill potholes is a good idea, similar to what we use to pave roads. This is a good material, adding rubber to it to make it more flexible is a good idea. I like those aspects of this product. However, (the process) is much slower and more expensive."
Jim Berezowsky, the City of Winnipeg's street-maintenance manager, said the city already uses a hot-mix compound when the weather gets warmer.
"One of the constraints is the city is running around with technically a mini hot mix plant that would be effective in our climate through the winter season," Berezowsky said, adding the city has not yet been in contact with Pelletpatch.
When 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 temporary fixes.
Once the ground has thawed 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.
"Hot mix works, and it's what you want as a finished product anytime, but it's generally been attributed to the availability of that material in the city of Winnipeg," he said, adding the city must purchase hot-mix asphalt from suppliers that operate mid-April through October.
The retail cost for one of Marra's machines is US$27,995. The rolling machine is another US$3,000.
"I'm confident. They drove right across the country to come here to show you there's a solution to potholes," said Vogiatzakis. "I guarantee you that today we found the solution."
-- with files from Bartley Kives