If you’ve ever swerved around a pothole, lost a tire, or yelled profanities after hitting one, congratulations. You’re officially an Akronite.
As someone who’s spent her entire driving career in Akron, I’ve apologized countless times to my Corolla, which I call Kiki, after hitting a dreaded pothole. Kiki has yet to accept any of my apologies.
In 2018, the City of Akron received 5,900 service requests for pothole patching. That’s a lot of potholes.
But what exactly is a pothole? How does it form? And what is the city actually doing about them?
I walked around Highland Square and asked a few Akronites what they do when they see a pothole and whether or not they’re aware they can call the City of Akron’s 311 number, or visit akronohio.gov/311, to report one.
Here’s what they had to say:
“It’s a hole in the street that has not been filled, I guess?”
“Someone had mentioned to me, like, you should call Akron about that. And I was like, ‘oh.’”
“[If you report it] it’s usually ignored, correct? It’s put on hold. They’ll respond, like after a long time. What about that one on Portage Path? Or was it Exchange? Market? Good thing we have that bike lane in Kenmore. I really do like that bike lane in Kenmore.”
“A hole in the road. From the weather, right? Usually it’s the weather. When the cold or heat causes the roads to crack, right?”
“[It’s from] inclement weather. Here we have four seasons. In the winter it snows and rains, and then freezes, which then contracts and expands and, um, nobody fills those roads.”
“I just try to dodge them. I make sure I’m not going to run anyone over, and I drive around it.”
I spoke to Chris Ludle, Deputy Director of Public Services, and James Hall, Public Works Manager, about potholes, how the city of Akron responds to them and what Akronites should do when they see a pothole.
What is a pothole, anyway?
A pothole is created when water works its way down a crack in asphalt or concrete. In the winter, the water freezes, then expands, further weakening the road. As the road becomes more fragile, it loses its ability to carry traffic from cars and trucks, forming a hole in the road.
The reason drivers often see multiple potholes on one road is because potholes create more potholes. As water travels below the surface to other locations, and then freezes, more potholes form.
“It gives a spot for water to get in, then the tire hits that water and shoves it underneath the asphalt, and more pop out,” says Hall. “The key thing is to get the water off the roadway so it doesn’t get forced in there.”
How do potholes get patched?
Hot mix asphalt facilities aren’t open during the winter months because they have to heat their material to 375 degrees, which takes too much energy when temperatures outside are too cold. That means maintenance workers have to use cold mix asphalt, which isn’t as effective, to patch potholes in the winter. Cold mix isn’t the most pliable of materials, which makes it harder to mold it to fit the pothole. Workers usually have to run the new asphalt over with tires to get it to stay in place.
What does the city do about potholes?
Akron residents can call 311 or visit bit.ly/2QClFlb to report potholes. The city says its Highway Maintenance Division crew also reports potholes they see on their snow and ice routes.
“We get that information in city works and a crew is dispatched,” Hall says.
After residents passed Issue 4 in 2017, 54.5 miles of new roadway were resurfaced in Akron, the city says.
Issue 4 money has also been used to purchase hotboxes, which keep the asphalt hot for a longer period of time, making it easier to patch potholes.
About 2,200 tons of hot mix pothole patching and 800 tons of cold mix patching were used in 2018, the city says.
Officials say they plan to pave more roadways in 2019. In fact, if you ask Chris Ludle about potholes, he’ll say, grinning: “What potholes? There aren’t any potholes in Akron.”