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Help on the way for pothole-pocked Erie Boulevard

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Help on the way for pothole-pocked Erie Boulevard

A machine is coming to fill the potholes on Erie Boulevard this week.
Help on the way for pothole-pocked Erie Boulevard
Cars dodge potholes on Altamont Avenue in Schenectady on Tuesday.

A machine is coming to fill the potholes on Erie Boulevard this week.

If you drive down Erie Boulevard in Schenectady, you’ve probably swerved to avoid the potholes or cringed as you hit one or two of them. That might not be the case by this weekend.

“We were scheduling to do it [Wednesday], but with the weather conditions, Thursday or Friday looks better to get in there,” said Art Clay, Schenectady’s street manager. “You want to have a dry surface to do the pothole-filling. We know we need to address the Erie Boulevard area.”

In addition to Erie, the city also plans to fill potholes on a section of Altamont Avenue later this week.

Schenectady will be using a new machine called the Crafco Patcher to fill the potholes. Clay said it’s only been used on a few streets and in test locations.

The potholes that were filled with the machine — including some on Foster Avenue, Lang Street, Salina Street and Seneca Street — have weathered the handful of winter storms that have each dumped between 6 and 12 inches of snow on the city, Clay said.

“We did some streets just last week, and they are holding up pretty good,” he said.

Potholes are filled differently depending on the depth of the hole, Clay said. For smaller potholes, the machine heats polymer asphalt, similar to the material used to seal cracks in roads, and applies a layer to secure the bottom of the hole and another layer on top.

For deeper potholes, the machine inserts stone for support, then several layers of polymer asphalt are applied to pack the stone and fill the pothole.

Clay said the plan is to fill potholes from the walkway on Erie Boulevard up to Mike’s Hot Dogs, between Nott Street and Union Street. Then the machine would make its way over to Altamont Avenue.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said the city is currently leasing the Crafco Patcher but plans to purchase it soon. The cost to buy the machine would be about $50,000, Clay said.

“This machine can be used year-round to fill potholes, and you can also do sealing,” McCarthy said. “The material that it uses is more versatile and has a longer lifespan.”

McCarthy said crews are constantly working to fill potholes as quickly as possible and as complaints roll in.

“The crews are out there all of the time; it’s an annual ritual,” he said. “We try to do the higher-traffic streets first, then secondary streets. The crews will also work on a neighborhood system, so when they are in a neighborhood, they will do other potholes nearby.”

In McCarthy’s State of the City address in January, he announced plans to pave more than 10 miles of streets this year. That’s up from the average of 8.5 miles over the last couple years, and significantly more than the 2.6-mile average before 2011.

City Engineer Chris Wallin said Erie Boulevard would not be paved this year due to anticipated construction traffic from the Mohawk Harbor development, the start of construction of the Erie Boulevard and Nott Street roundabout in June and plans to replace a water line under Erie Boulevard next year.

“What we’re doing now is for maintenance,” Wallin said. “We’re not going to pave until that work is done, which will take a significant toll on the road.”

The 3⁄4 mile portion of Erie Boulevard that was rebuilt, from Interstate 890 to Union Street, cost $14 million, and the city can’t afford to continue that method of rebuilding, Wallin said.

Instead of reconstruction, the city is looking to preservation, he said. The city will use alternative methods of paving this year — a combination of hot mix recycling and mill and fill — to cover more than 10 miles of streets.

The alternative to traditional paving only gets into about two inches of the road, which means underlying issues are not addressed.

“They’re all preservation techniques,” Wallin said. “We’re milling out 1 to 2 inches and overlaying 1 to 2 inches. So if you do an inch overlay a year later, you’re going to start seeing cracks. We bought a new crack sealer to address that problem. We’re focused on better management.”

Roads paved using the new, cheaper method have developed some cracks and potholes. Wallin said crews will seal all of the roads that were paved last year. He also plans to organize a new schedule to ensure roads are maintained annually.

This year, Wallin said, the city will focus on paving streets in the Bellevue and Woodlawn neighborhoods. Main roads including Broadway, Albany Street and Altamont Avenue would also be paved.

McCarthy said the paving program is being finalized and will be announced shortly. Clay said he is looking forward to meeting McCarthy’s goal of paving more than 10 miles of streets. He already has a list of streets he believes need to be addressed.

“The past couple of winters have been detrimental to our very bad roads, as you can see,” Clay said. “If you can’t get to the potholes you need to get to, they’re only going to get worse. I want to get 10 miles of road accomplished.”

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