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Harsher winter brings increased spring potholes

By Leanne Fuller lfuller@paducahsun.com

Along with flowers, potholes usually proliferate as winter gives way to spring. While spring pothole season has just begun, the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet recently announced that a long, harsh winter has already caused an expensive increase in numbers statewide.

KYTC spokesman Keith Todd said the transportation cabinet estimated that pothole patching costs for the state have increased roughly 20 percent from this time last year, but from his own calculations he believes the increase is closer to 25 percent.

Todd said pothole patching costs in District 1, from Jan. 1 to the present, total $122,007.

McCracken County Road Department supervisor Perry Mason said that while more potholes may appear on county roads as spring progresses, so far the numbers he's seen are not out of the ordinary.

"I'd call this, for us, just a normal pothole season, something that's just going to happen," Mason said.

Mason added that McCracken County has hundreds of miles of roads, and finding every pothole can be a difficult task. He asked that when folks see potholes on county roads, they call the road department to report them.

Potholes can pose numerous problems for motorists. Keith Goff, sales manager at Shelby's Wheel and Tire in Paducah, said pothole damage to vehicles is common this time of year.

Goff said hitting a pothole can cause problems as minor as knocking a car out of alignment or as prolonged as wheel bearing damage that surfaces months after the impact. He said potholes can harm wheels, rims and tires. 

To prevent potential pothole problems, Goff recommended motorists take their cars in for routine inspections and maintenance.

"If they haven't done it since the bad weather, they may find they have damage they didn't know about," Goff explained.

During winter, KYTC crews are generally limited in their quest to patch potholes to the use of cold mix asphalt, which Todd explained doesn't seal a hole or adhere as well as hot materials.

Todd said commercial asphalt plants close in the winter, but he expects them to open in the coming weeks and give crews access to hot mix asphalt. 

In the meantime, Todd said, state crews have been able to heat recycled asphalt to patch holes using a hot box, sending it to the counties in District 1 on a rotational basis.

Todd said crews have used asphalt saved from the previous summer's I-24 rehabilitation project to patch some holes. He said when the used asphalt is milled and heated, it becomes more or less identical to the asphalt used in paving new roadways.

"When you ask people what's the most recycled material on the planet, most people would probably say aluminum cans," Todd said. "But in reality, asphalt is the most recycled material in the world."

Contact Leanne Fuller, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653

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