Winter gives birth to more potholes

Naugatuck public works employee Jeremy Lennon fills a pothole with cold patch asphalt on Candee Road March 11. –LUKE MARSHALL

Naugatuck public works employee Jeremy Lennon fills a pothole with cold patch asphalt on Candee Road March 11. –LUKE MARSHALL

This winter has made for a bumpy ride on local roads.

“Nobody wants to see potholes, but robins come in the spring and so do potholes,” Prospect Mayor Robert Chatfield said. 

This year, however, potholes have been more frequent and worse.

“We’ve seen a number of potholes in areas that normally occur, and we’ve seen a rash of potholes in areas that we haven’t seen them before,” Beacon Falls First Selectman Christopher Bielik said.

Potholes occur when water seeps into cracks in the asphalt and freezes, causing the pavement to buckle and crack.

Chatfield said this winter has been longer and colder than average, which has given birth to more potholes than usual.  

Due to the cold weather, towns can only provide temporary fixes until the temperature warms up.  

Naugatuck Public Works Director James Stewart said the only option to fill in potholes is cold patch asphalt, which is packed into the holes but does not adhere to the road in the same way as hot asphalt.

“The problem with cold patch is it doesn’t stay in the holes well. Sometimes we have to go back and refill it again,” Stewart said.

Chatfield said, “They don’t make hot asphalt now obviously. So when we put cold patch in it’s OK for a little while, until it rains again.”

The plants that make hot asphalt are expected to be running again in April. Until that time municipalities across the state will have to rely on the ever-dwindling supply of cold patch.

“Similarly to how there was a shortage of salt earlier in the year, there has been a run on cold patch,” Bielik said.

Bielik said Beacon Falls went through a ton of cold patch within four days and bought half a ton more.

“We will get more as the material becomes available, and try to get through the rest of the winter,” he said.

On Tuesday, a Naugatuck public works crew was on Candee Road fixing potholes.

Public works employee Jeremy Lennon said there are crews out every day repairing potholes in the borough.

“We put in the cold patch and we’re just playing catch up until the hot patch comes out,” Lennon said. “It’s always an uphill battle in the spring.”

The problem is not just that the potholes are worse this winter, they are also more prevalent.   

“It’s almost easier to say what roads aren’t affected. Most roads in town have had some upheaval due to the extreme temperatures,” Bielik said. “It’s almost difficult to find a road in town to that hasn’t been affected.”

Chatfield said the roads that have been recently repaired in Prospect are holding up well against the winter.

“The roads that have been rebuilt, repaved and reconstructed don’t have problems. The roads that we haven’t gotten to yet are where they are,” Chatfield said.

Stewart said potholes can be found around the borough, but some areas are feeling the affects more than others.

“Roads that haven’t been paved recently are the most affected,” Stewart said.

Stewart said that the borough hopes to pave some of the more affected roads, such as North Main Street in Union City, in this coming fiscal year. However, that will not stop the department from doing their best to take care of those roads now.

“We fill potholes everywhere. Even if the roads are scheduled to be repaved,” Stewart said.

While it is important, filling the potholes takes money.

Bielik said the town has a surplus in the current budget to cover additional expenses for the repairs. He added the town will take a close look at its road repair budget as it developed the 2014-15 spending plan. Some of the roads will require more than just patches, he said.

“It’s going to be a difficult process trying to prioritize what the most critical need will be,” Bielik said.

Since the towns can only continue to patch the potholes until the weather warms up, Bielik, Chatfield and Stewart all had the same advice for motorists: Drive slow.

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