Like many places in the Midwest, winter in the Kansas City metro area means potholes on the roads – sometimes forming overnight.
They can be a nuisance and sometimes even a hazard, messing up many a drive or car repair bill, and the weather hasn't been too helpful to area public works crews trying to repair them, either.
“It it was dry and cold, it wouldn't be as bad, but because we have the freeze-thaw (cycle), we'll go through any temporary repairs until spring,” said Chris Sandie, director of public works in Blue Springs. “If we get a stretch of warm weather we might be able to do some good repairs, but (otherwise) we're going to chase them from now to spring.”
“Typically when we get cold, we get moisture with it.”
The common cause of most potholes is well-known: moisture seeps into cracks and underneath pavement area, then freezes and expands, weakening the pavement and causing it to break up when tires roll over top.
Lynelle Luther, maintenance manager for the local Missouri Department of Transportation office, said you never really know where potholes initially will open up, but she and other public works officials know they need to keep an eye on the ones which received a quick fix, as those likely will open up again.
“We know there's holes we fixed last week starting to come apart,” she said. “We've had some situations where a hole just pops up overnight.”
The quick fix means a cold-mix asphalt, which generally doesn't compact and hold up as well as hot-mix asphalt and is meant to be a temporary repair.
It's not that hot-mix asphalt can't ever be applied during cold weather. It's that supply is limited, as many asphalt producers don't run in freezing temperatures.
“We're still able to address them, but we know that the quality is not fantastic,” said Kati Horner, city engineer for Independence. “We just have to know we're going to be back out there this spring when temperatures.
“We're just trying to make sure we get them addressed to make roads safe.”
One main road alone, Horner said, crews patched 150 holes Monday.
“It's not necessarily worst this year,” she said of potholes in Independence. “We just have a handful that are extremely visible.”
Rain or snowmelt also complicate repairs, as well.
“What gets us is if there's any moisture in the hole,” Sandie said. “As soon as the moisture freezes, then it puffs the asphalt back out.”
Luther said she recently had crews addressing holes in a crucial spots where melted snow kept getting inside. They couldn't wait for it to dry, though.
“You patch it up even though you know you'll know be back there the next day,” she said.
And when you get temperatures and wind chills like what's forecasted this week, Sandie said, it's just not good to have crews out for long time periods.
Independence residents can report potholes by calling the pothole hotline at 816-325-7624 or by going to the city's website at www.ci.independence.mo.us and clicking “Action Center.” The city doesn't fill potholes on state and U.S. roads that MoDOT maintains.
Blue Springs residents can call the 24-hour hotline for potholes (816-228-0291) or leave a message at the operations center (816-228-0195). Sandie said citizen pothole reports can be helpful for streets not widely used.
“We typically get a lot of calls on main roads,” he said. “But if you've got a pothole on a cul-de-sac, we probably haven't seen it.”
For MoDOT roads – highways, bridges and overpasses – call 1-888-ASK-MoDOT to report potholes, or use the department's website (www.modot.org), Twitter handle (modot_kc) or Facebook page (MoDOT.KansasCity).