Ravages of winter seen in streets
|March 16, 2011|
By Debbie Gardner and
G. Michael Dobbs
Everyone knows the return of robins and daffodils popping through the ground are signs of spring. There is another sign that is less welcome: potholes.
After a record-breaking winter, area Departments of Public Works (DPW) have their work cut out for them in significant road repair.
For the heads of the DPWs perhaps the most welcome harbinger of the season is the opening of the asphalt plant.
Town of Agawam
The Town of Agawam had already moved from cold patch to hot patch in an attempt to knock down some of the more persistent potholes when Reminder Publications reached Superintendent of Public Works Christopher Golba on March 8.
He said the town had already obtained hot patching material from the Palmer Paving Company and, for the next couple of days, would be tackling the streets in town that had "the most significant damage" before the anticipated heavy rains at week's end.
"It's been the worst pothole season in a number of years," Golba said, adding that with the heavy snow, the recent string of warm days and very cold nights, and the rain, "We've had a couple of areas in town that have been affected with a lot of potholes."
Though the town had been regularly filling potholes prior to last Tuesday, Golba said the storms of last Sunday and Monday simply washed the gravel-like cold patch materials the Department of Public Works (DPW) had been using right back out of the damaged areas.
Springfield and North Westfield streets were among the areas of town that were experiencing the most problems with potholes, he added, suggesting drivers "slow down" when traversing those streets.
A full reconstruction of Springfield Street is planned for this year, using Chapter 90 funds, he said.
Golba said he has an $84,000 materials budget for patching potholes as well as DPW repairs to several streets that have been planned for this spring.
City of Chicopee
The director of Chicopee's DPW, Stan Kulig said there is a technical word for roads that appear to have been ground into small pieces: delamination.
He said when water seeps in-between a road's layers of asphalt and goes through a cycle of freezing and thawing, the pavement breaks into pieces.
He said his crews are seeing more of that condition this year.
Like other communities, Chicopee has started patching with hot asphalt. Initially, Kulig bought a truckload from a plant in Watertown, but now is buying asphalt from a local company.
Last week, he had three crews out patching holes.
He believes that budget-wise, the repairs might run slightly above his budget.
City of Holyoke
William Fuqua of that city's DPW said the additional plowing roads received this year took a toll on the conditions of the city's streets.
"It was rougher," he said.
Holyoke DPW employees have been repairing roads for the last three weeks he said. Fuqua added he didn't expect there would be any additional expense in the operation over his allotted budget.
"We will carry on as we normally would and patch holes as needed," he said.
City of Springfield
Al Chwalek, director of the Springfield's DPW, said the city is "looking at one of the worst pothole seasons."
He attributed the problem not just to the toll of the winter, but the recent rainy days that were followed by freezing nights. The expanding ice in the road's cracks and crevices only make conditions worse, he explained.
Springfield crews had put a cold patch mixture in some potholes, but the heavy rains have washed it out.
Chwalek sent out 10 repair crews on March 12 to start repairing the worst problems. On March 14, he sent out another group of workers for a second round of patching with hot asphalt.
He expects to exceed his budget for the patching and will be asking for additional funds.
He also explained that not all of the repairs his department makes at this time should be considered permanent.
"This is just a stop gap," he said.
Permanent repairs involve cutting out sections of the road and then repaving them, Chwalek explained. Those kinds of repairs wouldn't happen until after July.
What also concerns Chwalek is the effect on damaged roads due to localized flooding. To keep storm water flowing, his department is clearing out clogged catch basins. Some storms drained are still either under ice or are covered with debris, he added.
Town of Southwick
The road crews in Southwick started tackling potholes about three weeks ago, according to Department of Public Works (DPW) Supervisor Mike Demko.
"We tried to get a jump on it as soon as the snow banks were back," Demko said. We're trying to maintain the main roads [and] we try to get to secondary roads when we can."
Though this is his first season as DPW supervisor, Demko has been with the town's Highway and Water Departments for 15 years. He said so far, this looked like a normal pothole season.
He said the town's heavier traveled areas, such as Feeding Hills and Granville roads, have pothole damage in certain spots, particularly those where water is also a problem.
He said the town also has "some secondary streets on the west end of town where the surfaces really need repaving" that also have pothole problems.
Demko said DPW Director Jeff Neece has put in a budget request for the town to purchase a hot box a device that can reheat asphalt patch material so that it can be reused so the DPW can utilize hot patch purchases for multi days.
If approved, he said the equipment would be on line for next year's pothole season.
City of Westfield
In Westfield, Director of Public Works Jim Mulvenna has been dealing with two road hazards potholes and flooding.
This year's crop of potholes, he said, seems "a little worse and a little earlier because of all the snow melt and the freeze and thaw and the rain."
"It's hard to keep on top of them," Mulvenna noted, adding that East Mountain Road, Noble Street, a short section of Springhill Road, Paper Mill Road and Mosley Avenue were among the most pothole-prone areas of town to date.
"There's a good dozen of them," Mulvenna said of the city's most problematic streets. "And then it's the random pothole on each street here and there."
Mulvenna said he has a budget of $75,000 for road work materials "between now and July, which isn't a lot when you are paying $120 a ton for hot patch."
"The mayor has told me that any extra funds we need (for repairs) he would supply," Mulvenna said. "We've got to get [the potholes] done. We need to make the roads safe and passable."
He said residents could report potholes to the Department of Public Works (DPW) by calling 572-6267 between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The city's second road hazard street flooding Mulvenna noted, became a major issue on March 7, following a weekend of heavy rains.
"We have one particular spot that always gets flooded," he said, citing Mainline Drive off Route 20 as the most prone to flooding.
That area, he said, has a drainage system for the street that dumps directly into the Westfield River.
"When the water level gets higher than the outlet pipe, it can't dump into the river," Mulvenna said, and the rains just back up and cover the street, exactly the situation that occurred last Monday.
The portion of Union Street known as "frog hole" is another area of the city prone to flooding in the spring and times of heavy rain, such as March 6 and 7, he added.
The DPW's Engineering Department is working on a plan to alleviate the backflow problem on Mainline Drive, Mulvenna said.
Town of West Springfield
Jack Dowd, director of the Department of Public Works in West Springfield declared this pothole season in his town "the most problematic in the last eight to 10 years."
"You had a perfect recipe for potholes," Dowd said. "You had a snow pack, you had a freeze-thaw cycle and you had [storm drains] blocked due to snow and ice buildup."
"It's nothing other than that," he said of the damage showing up on a number of streets. "We spent a lot of money on infrastructure, but a lot of the patches that held up in the past came out this year."
As of March 8, West Springfield was still using cold patch to fill potholes "a morale booster, but it washes right out with water," Dowd said. He said he was planning to contact one of the hot patch companies the following morning.
"At least with hot mix [the patching] will sustain longer," he noted.
Dowd said he spent $70,000 on patching materials last spring and had an equivalent amount in his budget for this year's repairs.
Some of the most pothole-prone streets in town, he noted include areas of Riverdale Street and "your older or low-lying areas, or streets that don't have adequate drainage."
Dowd added that Riverdale Street was scheduled for reconstruction along "a good portion" of its length this year.
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