City Services

Aug 07

[ARCHIVED] How Cracks and Potholes are Fixed

The original item was published from August 7, 2020 11:34 AM to August 7, 2020 11:44 AM

The Streets Department is responsible for maintaining 364 miles of paved city streets, 8 miles of paved alleyways in the business district and so it can be a never-ending task when it comes to fixing and patching the roads. When the Streets crews are made aware of a crack or pothole, they head into action. There are a few different methods to smoothing out any troubles in a road.

The repair process used on cracks in the roads involves filling the road surface with crack-seal material. Sealing material heats in a large kettle and is then pumped through a hose and wand into the cracks and allowed to cool so the street is sealed.

Photo of Streets crew
Streets staff member using a hose and wand to seal a crack. 

Another method is for damage greater than a crack, but still small and not very deep. In order to keep water from collecting and causing a larger problem later, a Streets equipment operator will use compressed air to blow out debris and loose material from the work area. When the area is clean, a hot emulsion is sprayed on the work area. A combination of emulsion and chips are then poured from a dump truck. The material is spread using a large wand until the surface is level, with the fresh coat of materials adhering to the hot emulsion previously sprayed on the surface. Finally, the repair is raked smooth and cools before traffic resumes on the road.

Emulsion Fix
Streets staff member raking a repair smooth. 

The most common fix for larger potholes involves a cold mix stored at the Streets Department yard. The night before fixing a pothole, the cold mix is loaded into a covered hopper on the patch truck and is heated throughout the night. To start the fix, debris and loose materials are removed by the work crew. The heated mix is then added to the hole until it is level or slightly higher than the road surface. The material added is then raked smooth and a roller compactor is used to ensure the patch is level with the roadway.

Cold Mix Fix
Streets staff members raking smooth and using a roller compactor on a repair. 

The Streets Department can fix cracks and potholes as small as an inch and as large as 10 feet by 10 feet. Outside contractors are called on for larger holes because they have the needed equipment – which is not currently part of the city’s inventory – to complete such jobs.

Dealing with varying factors and conditions means there is not a standard cost to fixing a pothole. The cost of a pothole repair depends on size, the amount of material used and labor costs dependent on how long the repair takes. The following materials have been used so far this year: 353 boxes of crack seal, 1,200 gallons of emulsion, 80 tons of chips and 530.7 yards of cold mix.