As the spring thaw takes hold in the Twin Cities, potholes are popping up on roads, forcing drivers to be on high alert for hidden hazards that can cause damage to their vehicles and wallets.
Despite potholes causing chaos in many other cities, the roads in Eden Prairie are holding up relatively well this season.
“There are truly some roads that I have driven around the metro that are busting tires,” said Robert Ellis, the public works director for the City of Eden Prairie. “Some cars might not be able to traverse [those], but truly, I don’t see that around here. Not to discount that we do have potholes, but it’s a much different comparison.”
Ellis explained that the slightly above-average pothole situation in the City of Eden Prairie this year is due to the extended fluctuation between thaw and freeze during the season. These weather conditions have also resulted in an above-average pothole situation in cities.
“If you put us on the scale of cities with major pothole problems, we’re very fortunate,” he said.
How did Eden Prairie manage to do better than other towns?
Ellis credited the city’s careful planning and strategic investment in road construction and maintenance as two key factors behind the success.
“We spend much time during the summer on our pavement management program,” he said. “It helps keep potholes to a minimum, but that’s not to say that we don’t have a few around the town. This is the time of year they pop up.”
He stated that the city evaluates the condition of each road every three years and assigns a rating. Currently, the average rating for city roads falls within the excellent to high very good category.
The city maintains 580 lane miles of roads, but MNDOT and Hennepin County Public Works are responsible for the state and county roads within their respective jurisdictions.
He noted that the roads scheduled for upgrades in the city are the ones that have experienced some potholes this winter.
“Where I’m seeing potholes are exactly where we’re doing projects in the next few years,” he said.
Residents can report potholes on the city’s See Click Fix application. “We send a crew out as soon as possible,” Ellis said.
The city’s road operators, responsible for plowing roads throughout the year, are well acquainted with their routes and trained to identify potholes. “If they see something, they put it on the list so that crew can go out and fill it,” he said. “Once they’re reported, they’re all a priority for us.”
Ellis said cities use a cold asphalt mixture to patch potholes temporarily and prevent moisture from seeping in before they do a more permanent patch with a hot asphalt mixture. Cooler weather this week may cause further delays in opening hot mix asphalt plants, which work better and last longer than the current cold mix patch material.
When the freeze-thaw cycle ends, the growth of a pothole can be slowed down. “If the snow melts from all the property around the roads and you can get out of this period of freeze-thaw, then you can eliminate the potential for those potholes to develop,” he explained.
The cost of fixing a pothole is low. “It might be a few dollars for the cost of the material,” he said. “There really isn’t a labor cost because at this time of the year we have personnel. If they’re not plowing snow during the day, they’re filling potholes or doing other maintenance like fixing trucks.”
He explained that reporting potholes in shopping or office centers can be challenging because the city doesn’t have authority over these areas. To address this issue, he recommended notifying businesses or property owners online about the potholes.
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