For the week of March 31, 1999  thru April 6, 1999  

Cities begin war on potholes

Express Staff Writer

It’s pothole season, and Wood River Valley municipalities are working hard battling the pothole blues.

City road crews are filling potholes as fast as the tire-gouging craters form.

Potholes are created when the asphalt surface is weakened by water seeping into small grooves and cracks, especially in older roads that don’t drain properly. The damage is accentuated by the freeze-thaw cycle, a regular occurrence throughout the next month, which causes the asphalt to break apart.

Ketchum street department manager Brian Christiansen said his crews go through about 15 tons of cold mix annually. Cold mix is a traditional remedy for patching potholes.

If potholes are cleaned well before patches are applied, cold mix and most any kind of patch will work, Christiansen said. He stressed that summertime hot patches work best, however.

Sun Valley’s crews are breaking with tradition and testing a goo they say works great. The new pothole patching material, Permapatch, is a fine aggregate substance comprised of one-eighth inch gravel and a high tar content. It works well for several reasons, said Jeff Carnes, Sun Valley roads and grounds administrator.

First, the new material can be used to patch potholes that are still damp or even downright saturated with water.

Second, Carnes said, it is supposed to last longer than the other materials. Cold patches have a tendency to come out after a relatively short time, he said. The Permapatch substance is guaranteed for two years.

"We used to fight cold mix," Carnes said, adding that city employees will have to wait to confirm that the new material will hold up over the long run. So far, however, it has worked well, he said.

The city used 5,000 pounds of the new pothole filler last week and is currently awaiting delivery of another 900 pounds.

"We won’t be done with [the potholes] for a while," he said. "They’ll continue to pop up."

At $16 for 60 pounds, Permatch is more expensive than traditional cold patch, but, Carnes said, it should pay off in the long run due to the lower maintenance costs.


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