DeKALB – Brenda Gilbert won’t venture far from her Sycamore home for fear of running through a pothole. The proud owner of a 2011 Toyota RAV4, she’s worried the pothole laden roads could cost her money and time.
“I don’t go into DeKalb,” Gilbert said. “I have a fairly new car, and I don’t want to ruin my shocks.”
Gilbert’s approach to car preservation is one area road crews are familiar with and are trying to change. Road crews from DeKalb, Sycamore and DeKalb County are out in force trying to fill potholes emerging on area roads.
DeKalb road crews spent 173 hours last week filling pot holes on city streets, Assistant Director of Public Works Mark Espy said. But no matter how much time road crews spend shoveling potholes full of patch mix, this winter’s temperature roller coaster creates new potholes as soon as the old ones are filled.
Areas of particular concern in DeKalb are Annie Glidden Road and First Street north of Dresser Road.
“This year was about average, but we’ve had such drastic changes and the extreme fluctuation makes things catch up fast,” Espy said.
Potholes appear when water that has seeped into the cracks of the pavement freezes and expands, cracking the pavement further. Warm weather further compounds the problem.
“Pot holes right now are really bad,” DeKalb Director of Public Works TJ Moore said. “As we’ve seen a return to more normal weather, we have had more popping up.”
So while many residents are crossing their fingers that temperatures climb, people like Moore and Sycamore Public Works Director Fred Busse know it only means more pothole patching for his crews.
“Right now, everything is frozen and it’s holding things together,” Busse said. “We’re anticipating warmer weather could make things worse.”
Sycamore spends between $10,000 and $12,000 a year filling potholes, Busse said.
This winter also has presented road crews with problems because of the relentless snow. While Busse planned to have crews filling pot holes earlier this week, they were instead plowing snow from the streets.
DeKalb County Engineer Nathan Schwartz said the best conditions for filling potholes are dry and not excessively cold. Typically, the county has one crew out filling potholes, many of which are on Peace Road between Bethany Road and Route 38.
“We try to fill them when they appear because if we don’t, they will just keep growing,” Schwartz said, adding snow plows don’t do any more damage than a semitrailer.
Schwartz advised drivers to be cautious of puddles in the road because they could conceal potholes.
Although this winter has been a challenge in terms of road maintenance, Moore said there’s no way to say if potholes have been worse than in previous years.
“You can’t compare winters,” Moore said. “All that matters is the pothole you just hit. My goal is that you don’t hit any potholes on the way home.”