Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Highlights: Spring (and springs) sprung - our live 'pothole cam'

Infamous pothole season battering vehicles; fill-in crews out

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If you're a trucker, the phrase "spring breakup" has nothing to do with ice on the river.

It's a seasonal condition that tells other truckers it's pothole season in Manitoba.

At a time of year when the city rolls out its pothole-patching crews and the Canadian Automobile Association launches its spring campaign for the worst roads, truckers are already warning each other about dangers to their vehicles' suspensions.

Hitting potholes on crumbling highways and city streets can be hazardous to trucks and cars alike.

"The potholes are pretty bad at this time of the year," said Dennis Engel, vice-president of Gardewine North, a transportation company

"That list is pretty big, especially in the springtime. It's breakup season and it can be pretty brutal."

Engel offered to canvass the company's drivers for the worst highways and suggested a call to the Manitoba Trucking Association, which keeps a list of the province's roadways in greatest need of repair.

The city announced Tuesday its pothole crews are out on major thoroughfares and collector routes. After the major streets are done, they'll start working on residential streets.

Calls to report potholes are down this year, likely because colder weather has left the holes filled with snow later than usual, said Ken Allen, the city's field support services supervisor.

Eleven crews were busy filling potholes on priority streets and the workload is expected to rise as the weather warms in April.

Pothole complaints to the city's 311 information line are down this spring. By this time last year, 850 complaints were made. So far this year, there have been 630 complaints about potholes.

"I don't have a list of the streets that are the worst," Allen said. "The focus is on the main streets and the collector streets. That's where 80 per cent of the traffic is."

The Canadian Automobile Association kicks off its spring campaign today to identify the worst city streets.

Members can log on to the CAA's website and click on the icon for the campaign to identify streets with the most potholes.

Motor leagues in provinces across the country run the same annual campaign. Every year, the clubs send crews to test-drive roads members identify as particularly bad.

Outside Winnipeg, some of the province's highways can be downright scary, CAA spokeswoman Liz Peters said.

One of the worst is Highway 21 in southwestern Manitoba, which runs north-south through communities like Shoal Lake, Hamiota and Deloraine to the U.S. border.

"There's one patch on Highway 21 where the road was crumbling into gravel and I didn't have enough time to slow down. I almost went careening off the highway," Peters said, recalling a recent trip. An oncoming truck spun up loose gravel and one stone cracked her windshield in half, she said.

In Winnipeg, the worst streets identified last year by CAA members -- St. James, Marion and Molson -- will probably make this year's list, too, she said.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 27, 2013 B1

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