Wheel-breaker potholes, snow keep crews busy

By: Terry Oparka, Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published January 22, 2018

 Road Commission for Oakland County workers Anthony Grillo, left, and Ron Conner patch potholes on Big Beaver Road in Troy Jan. 18.

Road Commission for Oakland County workers Anthony Grillo, left, and Ron Conner patch potholes on Big Beaver Road in Troy Jan. 18.

Photo by Brandy Baker

 This pothole on John R Road in Troy awaits Road Commission  for Oakland County crews, who worked to fill potholes.

This pothole on John R Road in Troy awaits Road Commission for Oakland County crews, who worked to fill potholes.

Photo by Brandy Baker

METRO DETROIT — The recent freeze-thaw cycle has resulted in a new crop of potholes — which can show up overnight — on local roads.  

“Last week (Jan. 8-14) was pretty busy,” said Craig Bryson, public information officer for the Road Commission for Oakland County. “Both crews (snow removal and pothole repair) were on overtime.”

Bryson said a warmup typically occurs in February, rather than January.

“It also came in conjunction with several snowfalls,” Bryson said.

Road Commission Highway Maintenance Director Darryl Heid said motorists should be aware that pothole crews may not get to all of the holes when they are out at this time of year. In the winter, the agency’s patch crews are often just trying to patch the worst holes — sometimes referred to as “wheel breakers” — as quickly as possible.

“Because we’re focusing first on getting the wheel breakers as quickly as we can, our crews will sometimes skip the smaller holes,” Heid explained in a prepared statement. “We’re doing this so that we can get around the entire system as quickly as possible to get the most serious potholes filled. If we took the time to patch all the smaller holes at the same time during these efforts, we would never make it around to all the wheel breakers.”

Heid said that once crews have made it around the main road system to get the worst holes filled, they will come back to “tighten up” the system by patching the smaller holes.

The Road Commission approaches potholes on a priority system similar to the way it plows roads in the winter: Safety dictates that the roads with the most traffic moving at the highest speeds take first priority.

Local road crews are also doing their best to keep up with the potholes between the cycles of freezing and thawing. Tom Trice, director of the Bloomfield Township Public Works Department, said his crews were scheduled to hit the roads Monday morning after this past weekend’s 40-degree temperatures.

Bloomfield Hills City Manager David Hendrickson said he’s noticed that more potholes are popping up around the city. Luckily, many of them are on roads already slated to be “replaced and rehabilitated” this year as part of Bloomfield Hills’ infrastructure program.

“I’ve also noticed that the maintenance efforts on other roads, which include crack sealing and larger patching techniques, have kept those roads in better condition by preventing water penetration,” Hendrickson added.

In Birmingham, pothole patching is about consistent proactivity, according to Public Services Director Lauren Wood.

“After every snow event, because of plowing and salting, our crews get out and are able to see holes (that) need to be patched,” Wood said. “The fluctuation in the temperature, freeze and thaw, causes us to review the streets for patching needs, and upon a report of a pothole, it gets filled within 24 hours.”

Bryson urged motorists to not assume that someone else has already reported a pothole; rather, motorists should call (877) 858-4804 or report potholes on the county’s website, www.rcocweb.org; click under “Forms.”

“Slow down around the pothole repair crews,” he said. “If you hit an icy patch, it can be very dangerous. While we know it’s frustrating to have your drive slowed down, please don’t put their lives in jeopardy.”