Winter has left its mark on the area, with thousands of potholes

The Herald News, Fall River, MA

It’s not unusual to hear the collective stance come up every spring that it was the worst winter ever.

This year, that opinion might be dead on.

“Worse than last year? Definitely. I estimate we’ll have double the potholes this year. My guess is about 4,000,” said Fall River Community Maintenance Director Kenneth Pacheco.

Plants that produce asphalt to fill the potholes are just starting up as winter ends. Pacheco said the city is purchasing four to six tons of hot and cold asphalt a day from the Acushnet-based PJ Keating. The cold patching is a temporary fix, Pacheco said, but works on the holes that are filled with water.

On Thursday, DPW workers Darren Medeiros and Bill Ronca, the lone crew working on potholes for the city right now, were on Oak Grove Avenue near New Boston Road with a large truck hauling molten asphalt, filling ragged holes with hot patch.

Medeiros, who has been working for the city for 10 years, said he has never seen anything like this winter and the effect it has had on the city’s streets. Between the consistent freezing temperatures, snow and freezing rain, the streets are heaving, he said.

The pair started filling and tamping and smoothing asphalt about three weeks ago and have probably worked on a couple hundred potholes so far, they said. The worst of the damaged roadways is where the gas and electric companies made cuts in the road.

“That’s where most of the problems are. They’re supposed to be maintaining it,” Medeiros said.

Medeiros said they are trying to get to the biggest holes first, calling them “rim-breakers.”

Ronca, who has filled potholes for more than six years, said he has seen share of potholes before, “but never this big.”

As Medeiros and Ronca worked, a number of passing motorists stopped to inform them of more potholes located down the street and in various neighborhoods. The two DPW workers are more than aware of the number of potholes that await.

“I hate them,” said Medeiros of the potholes. “Every time we get out of the truck, somebody stops with a story to tell. Sometimes they’re nice, sometimes they’re not and sometimes people thank us.”

The pothole crew’s work has been hampered by equipment breakdowns. The big truck they were driving had just gotten repaired and on the road Thursday. Another piece of hot asphalt equipment that is towed behind a truck is broken and not expected to be repaired for several weeks.

In addition to the pothole-filling crew, Pacheco said there are DPW workers going street-by-street in the afternoon to identify potholes locations, conducting a citywide audit of the pesky craters.
Mayor Sam Sutter said his administration is coming up with a pothole plan. He said it’s one of his top 10 priorities.

“All you have to do is drive around the city after the winter we had. I ran into a businessman the other day and he said driving down one of the streets, which used to be a very smooth street, he felt he was driving down the streets of Mogadishu,” said Sutter, referring to a city in Somalia.

Like he does with most issues, Sutter said he wants to create the plan in a systematic way by studying the problem, creating and presenting the plan, then following it.

“But we have limited resources,” Sutter said.

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