U sets up phone hotline to deal with pothole season

by Jason Juno

Environmental horticulture junior Brent Fiedler knows the potential risk of potholes in roads. While traveling in the Forest Lake, Minn., area, he said, he once lost a tire as his vehicle struck a pothole on Minnesota Highway 97.

Fiedler said he parks and drives on the University’s St. Paul campus. The highways he drives on have potholes and so do campus roads, he said.

“A lot of the campus roads are bad,” he said. “It’s just not as pleasant to ride on; I don’t know, it’s annoying Ö I guess it’s not a huge deal, but it would be nice to have decent roads to drive on.”

University Parking and Transportation Services has again set up a phone number for students and others to call and report potholes near and on campus roadways. The number is (612) 626-7578.

The contractor, Allied Blacktop Co., will go out and fix the potholes, Parking and Transportation Services officials said.

The pothole repairs are funded by Parking and Transportation Services, wrote Mary Sienko, its marketing manager, in an e-mail. This year, expenses have come to approximately $8,000, she wrote.

The potholes that are worth the time and cost are fixed, she wrote. Parking and Transportation Services tries to fix potholes with the resources it has for the University’s 100 parking lots and 14 miles of streets, she wrote.

Potholes tend to be in older pavements first, but newer ones are susceptible too, she wrote.

Art Kistler, Parking and Transportation Services maintenance manager, said, “They’re as much a problem on campus as they are in any urban environment.”

But the contractor has been out once this year instead of the normal three times as a result of a “pretty forgiving winter,” Kistler said.

In the late winter and early spring, a freeze-and-thaw cycle occurs, he said. As water seeps under the surface of the road, it expands as it freezes. Then, cars drive on top of it and create the pothole, he said.

This is the most dramatic cause of the cycle, he said. Other contributors include salting and plowing during the winter months, he said.

Parking and Transportation Services fixes the potholes for the safety of bicyclists and motorists, Kistler said. The road surface also is maintained this way, he said.

Dawn Duffy, spokeswoman for the AAA office in Minneapolis, said potholes can cause problems with wheel alignment, uneven tire wear and vehicle handling. Uneven tire wear can mean buying new tires earlier than usual, she said. She said potholes can also cause accidents when people try to miss the pothole and swerve into traffic.

But some students said potholes are not a major problem.

Jason Jensen, an environmental studies senior, said that if he does hit a pothole, it is not a big concern for him.

Tim Smith, a history senior who drives to the University’s Minneapolis campus, said, “There are a few around, but they’re not a big deal.”