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Pothole patrol opens as snow melts

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Published on: Thursday, February 27, 2014

By Holden Wilen

ROCKVILLE – Although the snow is gone, a mid-February storm has left the Montgomery County Department of Transportation scrambling to fix a plethora of potholes.

The Department of Transportation does not fill potholes during snowstorms, according to the county, so now it is attempting to make up for lost time. To make matters worse, the mild weather in the days following the storm may have accelerated pothole formation.

County Executive Ike Leggett decided to take advantage of the improved weather conditions, calling for the Department of Transportation to intensify its efforts to fill potholes.

“This has been a rough winter for all of us and particularly for our county roads,” said Leggett. “While we welcome the warm weather, it does accelerate pothole formation. That’s why our Division of Highway Services crews are out in full force to ensure that our roads are in decent shape before another storm hits. I want to thank our staff for their tireless efforts to keep the roads clear of ice and snow and for all they do to repair and maintain our transportation infrastructure.”

The county largely depends on residents to report potholes, though crews do stop to fill any they spot as they make their rounds. According to Patrick Lacefield, director of public information for the county, when residents report a pothole to the county’s 3-1-1 service it gets filled within 48 hours.

According to the county’s public information office, transportation workers filled 2,600 potholes from Feb. 20-26.

To fill as many potholes as possible, Lacefield said the county ordered 200 tons of hot mix asphalt and cold patch, ran all four pothole trucks and assigned all available workers to pothole duty.

“Each of our five depots ran a ‘cut out crew’ to make repairs to large areas requiring excavation to earth and backfill with base asphalt and surface asphalt,” Lacefield said. “Additionally, all of our supervisory pickup trucks were carrying Cold Patch material and were patching pot holes on low volume streets using cold patch material.”

The county only maintains county roads, while the State Highway Administration maintains numbered roads, such as Route 355. Municipalities such as Gaithersburg and Rockville maintain their own roads.

County Council President Craig Rice said the number of potholes being filled after the snowstorm are not an effect of county roads not being maintained, but are a simple result of the snowstorm.

“Whether you have (a road) freshly resurfaced or not once those plows hit, especially with the storms we have been getting, it truly tears up the roads regardless,” Rice said.

“The maintenance aspect doesn’t play into as much. Certainly you could argue that a pothole that was smaller got bigger from the plows but beyond that it really is just ensuring that we are trying to keep up as best as possible and actually are reactive very quickly to concerns.”

Neither Rice nor Lacefield could provide exact figures for much has been spent, but Rice said the county has exhausted its snow removal budget and he expects Leggett to provide supplemental funding.

“A lot of our roads are extremely damaged throughout the region,” Rice said. “It might mean we are looking at additional money that we will have to allocate and really get our roads back up to speed for the upcoming spring.”

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