End of winter means potholes are back

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published February 22, 2016


Miniature pits of despair will soon mar roads and commutes in metro Detroit, but some road officials and experts say they will do what they can to make the season as tolerable as possible.

According to Bob Hoepfner, roads director at the Macomb County Department of Roads, the pothole situation has been about the same as last year, though he added that problems might have arisen a bit earlier due to generally milder weather. Frequent transitions between freeze and thaw damage roads at a faster rate, he explained. 

He said some of the biggest problems have popped up on M-59 between M-53 and Romeo Plank Road. However, M-59 construction is scheduled in 2017 to repair part of that section. 

“They’ll get some of the bad areas, no doubt,” he said.

In the meantime, Hoepfner said county road crews will perform temporary pothole patchwork using asphalt material, so long as it’s not snowing or icy outside. The durability of the temporary patchwork can vary, he explained. “If we don’t have another snowfall, and our plows don’t take (the patching) out, it should last a significant amount of time,” he said. “If it’s wet, it may not last as long.”

Susan Hiltz, AAA Michigan public affairs director, offered some tips on how to drive on pothole-laden roads as safely and responsibly as possible.

According to AAA, one of its recent studies found that pothole-related vehicle repairs cost U.S. drivers an estimated $3 billion per year, and about two out of three Americans are worried about potholes on local roads. About 15 percent of responding drivers said a pothole damaged their vehicle to the point of needing repairs within the past five years.

Hiltz said road conditions have not improved in Michigan, so drivers must resign themselves to enduring another challenging pothole season. 

“It really is based on having good driver awareness and looking ahead and anticipating potholes,” she said. 

To make the best out of the situation, AAA recommends paying attention to tires for tire tread depth and inflation. It also recommends keeping an inflated spare tire or a tire inflator kit as a backup.

To avoid potholes, pay attention and observe the road in front of the vehicle. If a car has to drive through a pothole, it’s best to decelerate, release the brakes and straighten the steering, the agency recommended.

Due to a milder winter with less snow than usual, Hiltz said conditions have made potholes more easily visible in traffic. But she cautioned drivers to remain on the lookout for potholes as the weather warms up.

“Usually when our thaw begins is when you will begin to see more potholes pop up throughout the state,” she said.

Learn more about the Macomb County Department of Roads by visiting roads.macombgov.org or by calling (586) 463-8671. Learn more about AAA Michigan by visiting michigan.aaa.com.