That’s “Bruno” the recurring pothole (or should we call it a potpit?) at 35th/Alaska, as nicknamed (and photographed) by Casey Crowell, who e-mailed WSB with a complaint that sparked plenty of discussion after we featured it here two weeks ago. Casey’s contention: Sure, the city will come out and fix potholes, but they don’t fix them correctly, and the repeated repairs cause even more trouble, so why aren’t they fixed properly the first time? Now Casey has sent photos plus a response he just received from the city’s top transportation boss:
Casey says that’s another car avoiding “Bruno.” So far, he says, he has sent Mayor Nickels three notes with no response. But just as he was about to send a followup note to us a few days ago, he says, e-mail came in from Grace Crunican, who runs the city Transportation Department. His overall critique of her response is, “In my opinion the response does not address my main issue which is ‘IF YOU CAN NOT FIX IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME (2nd or 3rd) DO NOT FIX IT AT ALL!’ It wastes money we cannot afford to waste. You could use that money to subsidize the five or six people that ride the $52 million South Lake Union trolley. A faulty fix ends up creating two problems instead of one, now not only is there a pothole, there is now material all aver the road causing a road hazard!” Here’s the SDOT response he forwarded, with his questions/observations inline:
LETTER FROM SDOT
Dear Casey Crowell:
I am responding to your concern regarding multiple attempts when addressing potholes.
Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) has had quite a time with the winter weather. In addition to snow and ice concerns, the alternate freezing and thawing brings out the potholes which frequently occur in the same areas as you have observed until maintenance money allows a more extensive permanent deep strength repair which also needs to be completed in dryer weather.
Pothole repairs are a band-aid over a very large problem. To address decades of deferred maintenance, Mayor Nickels, the City Council and Seattle voters enacted the nine-year Bridging the Gap transportation maintenance funding program, which began in 2007. With funds from Bridging the Gap, SDOT paved about 27 lane-miles in 2007, including California Avenue Southwest. SDOT will resurface another 33 lane-miles in 2008, including First Avenue South, which is used every day by residents of West Seattle. Even with this progress, it will take years before we catch up with all the deferred maintenance. So, SDOT will be filling potholes for many years.
Potholes repairs improve the driving surface as long as they last (CASEY COMMENT: “This is just not true, often times when a pothole is fixed and before it falls apart there will be an elevated bump instead of a hole which is like going over a speed bump at 35mph, then it falls apart and the hole is back with lots of loose gravel”) but because the underlying problem has not been dug out and repaired, they are prone to failure (CASEY COMMENT: “So stop repairing them until you can do it correctly!”) When the whole street needs rehabilitation, sometimes there is not good pavement adjacent to the pothole, which aggravates the problem. Pothole repairs made during the wet season are especially prone to failure, and pothole repairs made with patching products, which have to be used when the asphalt plants are closed for seasonal maintenance (typically in December and January) are especially susceptible to having to be redone. (CASEY COMMENT: “This makes absolutely no sense at all.”)
Our crews donâ€™t like to redo their own work, as you can imagine, but refilling potholes is necessary to keep driving safe (CASEY COMMENT: “When you fix a pothole that almost immediately starts falling apart, how is it keeping driving safe?”) The long-term cure is to catch up with the deferred maintenance. Also, when necessary, crews make deep strength repairsâ€”large spot repairs to correct particular problems. This is the approach we are taking on 35 Avenue Southwest at Southwest Alaska, and at several other locations in West Seattle.
An SDOT street maintenance repair crew has filled the worst potholes at 35th Avenue Southwest & Southwest Alaska Street (CASEY COMMENT: “Can you please tell me the date this pothole was fixed? See my photos of the pothole at 35th and Alaska taken 1-22-08”) In addition, Gerard Green, SDOT Civil Engineer has recently performed a field inspection at this location and has developed a deep strength repair project which will be implemented in the very near future; this project will reconstruct the area of concern which has caused recurring potholes over the last year or so. If you see the potholes reemerge before we can make the deep strength repair that will fix the problem, the quickest way to get them fixed is to call them into the SDOT Street Maintenance dispatcher, 206-386-1218. (CASEY COMMENT: “I am very aware of this “hotline” and always have been, but I will not call it because you will come out and fix the problem and unfortunately that is the problem. I want you to fix potholes correctly or not at all and it has been proven over and over that you can not repair a pothole without making it worse. Again I will document the 50 or more pot holes on the stretch of road from Alaska to California, the city should be ashamed.”)
Please call Gerard Green at 206-684-0937 or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions, or need any other information regarding this project.
Grace Crunican, Director
Seattle Department of Transportation
Casey’s closing comment: “Grace, you need to drive on these streets to know what is going on. If you would like, I will make a tape recording with narrative on the 50 or more failing potholes from Alaska St where Huling Bros is to Fauntleroy where Starbucks and Tully’s are, you will see what I am talking about. Can you tell me when this stretch of road had repairs to the multiple potholes? Another big question, often times potholes are created by construction, why are the companies doing the construction not held accountable for the roads they screw up? Again, I want to thank you for your response. I have no hard feeling against the Mayor or city, I just want this issue to be looked at and fixed. Currently a lot a money is being wasted to fix potholes that fall apart multiple times through the season.”
The saga continues. Will Casey get the followup questions answered? When will the “deep strength repair” (we can’t help but note, that sounds like an infomercial wrinkle treatment) project start? We’ll keep you posted.