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A Bumper Crop of Potholes

Pothole being repaired.

Where did all those potholes come from?  Does it seem like they just appeared overnight?  Well, they did, sort of.  The recent cold snap,  followed by the heavy rains, have both been major contributors to the many potholes chewing up our streets recently. For a better understanding of how potholes form take a look at this graphic:

Water from melting snow and ice seeps into the pavement and softens it. During repeated cold spells, the water in the pavement refreezes and expands, breaking up the pavement, on and below the surface.

When the ice melts, it leaves gaps inside the pavement, and the moisture further softens it. The soft, fractured asphalt cannot support the weight of passing vehicles, and begins to break up.

As vehicles continue to pass over the weakened spot, pieces of roadway are kicked out, creating the hole in the highway.

But, please keep in mind that regardless of the weather, potholes are a symptom of pavement that is wearing out.  Our city has a large backlog of deferred maintenance that has accumulated over 40 years of not having enough money to adequately repave streets.  During that time, the cost of paving materials has greatly increased, and also the amount and weight of traffic has increased.  The good news is that in November of 2006, voters approved the Bridging the Gap transportation initiative that provides much needed funding for street paving, as well as for other maintenance and street improvements, over nine years. With this funding, SDOT is conducting an ambitious program to get streets back into proper condition—but just as it took years for the street condition to decline, it will take years to catch up.

While our funds for major paving increased with the Bridging the Gap initiative, unfortunately our overall funding for street operations and maintenance (pothole repairs) has been significantly reduced as a result of the economic downturn.

If you spot a new pothole, don’t just curse it or the Seattle Department of Transportation, let us know because we may not have received a call about it.   Call our pothole hotline and we’ll repair that spot within 72 hours, that’s our promise to the citizens of Seattle!  Here’s the hotline number:  206-386-1218   Write that number down at home and post it in your car so you can give us that location as soon as you have stopped your car and it is safe to make that call. The sooner we can repair it, the easier it is for us.

Visit our website for more information about potholes.