Highway work crews are out in force around the region fixing what Mother Nature damaged this past winter.
Filling potholes is a job that highway officials say they try to keep on top of all winter. First, crews put in temporary fixes, then they come back in warmer weather and make more permanent ones.
The result, they hope, is a smoother ride for area drivers.
The culprit, officials say, is water. When water works its way into cracks in the pavement, or gets forced in there by passing tires, the stage is set. Once the temperature drops low enough, that water freezes, creating the area’s latest pothole and area drivers’ latest aggravation.
“To keep the roads safe, it’s an expensive and time-consuming process,” Glenville Highway Superintendent Thomas Coppola said. “What we try to do is be proactive.”
In the winter, highway departments use a mix designed for cold weather, though one that isn’t as permanent. Once the spring and summer comes, the worst of the potholes can be reshaped, essentially cutting them square, and more permanent fixes can be put in.
Comparing this pothole season to previous years, highway officials say the last couple of winters seem to have produced fewer holes than in harsher winters.
Clifton Park Highway Superintendent Richard Kukuk said this spring hasn’t been that bad — yet — in terms of potholes compared to other years.
Still, he has two crews out filling between 30 and 40 a day.
“It usually happens on the main roads that have higher volume,” Kukuk said. “If you get a piece of pavement that starts to break up, the water can get in there and it’ll get bigger.”
The crews fill ones that they find and those reported by drivers. So far, though, it’s been a routine spring in his town, Kukuk said.
“We’re pretty good this year,” Kukuk said. “It’s not as bad as it’s been in other years. The winter wasn’t so severe.”
In Schenectady, crews have also been trying to keep on top of the problem through the winter.
This winter wasn’t as bad, said Carl Olsen, city commissioner of general services, “but we certainly have potholes, as everyone else does.”
The more permanent hot mix will be available soon, making for longer-lasting repairs, he said.
Rural towns not only have the paved roads to worry about but the unpaved roads, too.
In Duanesburg, Highway Superintendent William Reed said each presents its own problems.
Hard-surface roads are a little easier to fix, Reed said. With dirt roads, the frost keeps the road bed moving, making for an uneven surface.
As soon as the thaw comes, road crews are out there blanketing the town, Reed said.
“We try to get out there and beat the complaints,” Reed said.