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Usual pot hole complaint: What’s the deal?

Is there a schedule that I’m not aware of for pot hole filling? I feel like the weather has been warm enough lately for filling, but I have yet to see a single crew out. Are they waiting for all the snow to melt? Do they fear another snow storm and the plows it will bring? Have we decided to simply switch to gravel roads because they would be smoother?

My already fragile and poorly designed suspension is crying.

29 Comment(s)

  1. I’ve noticed several potholes near my house that were filled, even though I never saw any crew out there. I’d like to think that the road repair people are also ninjas.

    Also, I think the bad winter made more potholes than usual, so the workers are probably spread very thin.

    BadCat! | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  2. A crew drove down my street in Kenwood today, and I saw a crew on Fourth Street in East Hillside last Thursday or Friday.

    moosetracks | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  3. Glad to hear! Hopefully I see them soon.

    aluminumpork | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  4. Mayor Ness posted this about potholes back in February:

    Finally, a couple warm days also signal the start of pothole season. A number of roads are already showing the impact of this harsh winter. After the snow clears, crews will be out with a cold mix to address the worst of the holes. Keep in mind, that until the hot mix plant opens in May, all of the repairs done with cold mix are temporary -- they help to address dangerous holes, but cold mix will not last through the summer.

    Nick L | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  5. So, did the hot mix plants actually open in May?

    aluminumpork | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  6. Only if we went back to the future.

    Paul Lundgren | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  7. Whoops, got my months messed up!

    aluminumpork | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  8. Does anyone else think it’s time to adjust our expectations of winter driving and nix the salt on all but the most dangerous hills and intersections?

    It would seem as though we salt the streets in an attempt to make the roads drive like they do in summer. People drove our streets for decades in vehicles far less equipped (no anti-lock brakes, 4WD, AWD, front wheel drive) without salt by just taking it a bit slower and by using sand for traction to both stop and go. The sand was spread on top of the snow for traction, not to melt the snow. This is Duluth. It snows in winter. We should know and expect that driving will be a bit slower in the winter months.

    This is off the cuff and without scientific research, but in my way of thinking, all salt does is attempt to melt the snow on the streets but only works down to certain temperatures. In doing so, it increases the temperature range of the freeze-thaw cycle by allowing snow/ice to melt at lower temperatures than naturally. When it is working it melts the snow into water which then fills up every crack and crevasse in the road. When it then freezes again it would expand and cause potholes and cracks to get bigger and deeper would it not? The stuff that doesn’t seep in then freezes into a skating rink causing more salt to be needed.

    I don’t have the figures in front of me, but strictly from a budget standpoint, we must spend a lot of money on salt, and then more money on repair and replacement because of the salt? If salt makes the roads wear quicker and also costs more to repair (pothole filling / crack sealing) and replace sooner than if we didn’t use salt, then why do we use it?

    These issues are in addition to the environmental concerns of all this salt added to our environment which isn’t natural.

    I could easily be swayed the other way if someone had a good reason, and I am sure they do. So let’s hear it.

    Seems to me we could save money on salt, repair, and replacement all while having better streets without the salt. My guess for using it is safety and lawsuits, or is it just that our expectations of winter driving have changed over the years and our streets, suspensions, teeth, and pocket books are paying the price?

    rappdaddy | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  9. City, if you are listening, me and a few investors are willing to front the money to completely rebuild the intersection of 10th Avenue East and Fourth Street. Whatever the cost, we’ll pay for it. Just tell us where to send the money.

    spy1 | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  10. Pothole Filling Law.
    The crews are out. Just find the busiest time for the intersection, add in the time you are the busiest, and a bus stop and BAM! there they are.

    Oh, and right after you’ve just detailed your car so driving over refilled pothole could lead to crap stuck to the bottom of your car.

    kerc | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  11. I would rather risk losing my tire to a salt-induced pothole than have a truck slam into me because of a lack of traction.

    BadCat! | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  12. No salt? Are you kidding? The roads are UNBELIEVABLY dangerous without it.

    Karasu | Apr 7, 2014 | New Comment
  13. Karasu, Do you know that for fact or are you just guessing?

    North Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon don’t use salt… We didn’t use salt for decades. Today’s cars are far safer and more capable in winter conditions.

    rappdaddy | Apr 8, 2014 | New Comment
  14. Unfortunately not everyone can afford to drive “today’s cars.” My car is 12 years old, has been through several owners, and has been in an accident coming town Thompson Hill. Maybe in-town you could almost deal with not using salt but on that hill you’re taking your life into your own hands. Even *with* the salt I’ve had enough near misses this year.

    Makoons | Apr 8, 2014 | New Comment
  15. As I said in my original post, salt would still be used on the most dangerous hills and intersections. My truck is now 14 years old but I imagine must better than the cars in the 1940s, ’50s, and ’60s when they didn’t use any salt. I think my main point is that we have come to expect the winter roads to be like the summer roads. We can’t expect that in Northern Minnesota. It is unrealistic, and our attempt to make them like summer roads is very expensive both in terms of cost of salt, damage to the roads, and the environment. Our expectations are not in line with reality. We must drive slower and more cautious in winter, something that it seems people have forgotten.

    rappdaddy | Apr 8, 2014 | New Comment
  16. I think rappdaddy indeed makes a potentially valid point. Other midwestern states with similar weather use sand, and their residents (circumstantially) seem to have to no problem with it. It would be interesting to research how much money a city like Fargo spends on repairing roads that are within a certain age range.

    For instance, how soon does a newly reconstructed road require minor maintenance (cracks filled, etc)? What is the average life span of a brand new road, and how much is spent on maintenance of a road from birth to death in comparison to a similar road in Duluth. If differences are found, why do they exist? Do our plow trucks do something differently? Are cracks and pot holes filled “more poorly”? Is it really just the difference between using salt and sand?

    I understand in this example, the two cities have very different geography, and so safety on steep inclines may very well be a deciding factor. If this is the case, perhaps salt could be applied intelligently on inclines that are deemed a certain “danger rating” and sand applied everywhere else. Then again, perhaps this would add immense costs to the logistics of winter road maintenance.

    aluminumpork | Apr 8, 2014 | New Comment
  17. I think they should just make roads out of salt instead of concrete or asphalt.

    Terry G. | Apr 8, 2014 | New Comment
  18. Sure, they did things differently in the old days. They didn’t use seat belts or child safety seats either. Moving backwards is rarely better, and expecting your tax money to go toward decreasing your chances of dying in a car wreck is pretty reasonable.

    Barrett Chase | Apr 8, 2014 | New Comment
  19. I think snow tires prevent more accidents than salt, I wish they were mandatory. Driving without them in bad weather should be considered reckless driving.

    wskyline | Apr 8, 2014 | New Comment
  20. As I understand it, Duluth uses a combination of sand and salt. Salt is very corrosive, but the problem with sand is that too much of it clogs the storm water drains. Seems like I remember some Duluth News Tribune articles in recent years explaining all the ins and outs, using a different type of salt that’s less damaging to roads, etc. I think we need an “expert witness” here.

    marko3133 | Apr 8, 2014 | New Comment
  21. The city is, in fact, constantly working to reduce the amount of salt it uses on the roads. Especially the amount of calcium chloride, which is what we have to use in extreme low temperatures.

    The city has experimented with beet juice recently, specifically on sidewalks and I believe the Second Avenue West exit off Mesaba Avenue. Not to mention some limited attempts at using in-road heating elements in effort to test viability.

    The problem is much of these are cost prohibitive, as things like beet juice cost almost 65 times as much as rock salt.

    Dorkus | Apr 8, 2014 | New Comment
  22. Can we circle back to ninja road crews for a moment? I am intrigued by this idea, but I fear it might be cost prohibitive. Do you think ninja road workers command a higher salary than non-ninja road workers?

    Fitz | Apr 8, 2014 | New Comment
  23. Those complaining of too much salt must not live or have to drive up the hill to get to work. There were three times this winter that my car slid backward due to poor salting by the city. It is dangerous and this year has been an embarrassment in my view. Those three times I could not get up the hill on 21st Ave E, 17th, 18th, or 19th. Mesaba and Trinity have been impossible as well. The last storm where school wasn’t cancelled and kids were all over the ditch around Marshall was also an embarrassment. This was a very hard winter, but we survived. The potholes are horrible as a result. Fix the main roads, salt the main roads, heck, the police had to call in salt trucks on Mesaba when they were stuck a few weeks ago. People complaining this winter about snow days and salt need to move somewhere… Like Fargo.

    Endion | Apr 9, 2014 | New Comment
  24. I am currently in sunny Cleveland and they’ve got some really nice potholes to compete with ours. Maybe some of you science people can come up with a less harmful, yet more effective de-icing agent?

    TimK | Apr 9, 2014 | New Comment
  25. Update from the city:

    Duluth Mayor Don Ness, Chief Administrative Officer David Montgomery and Manager of Maintenance Operations Kelly Fleissner are holding a news conference today at 11 a.m. in the Mayor’s Reception Room, room 405 of Duluth City Hall, for an announcement regarding the city’s approach to this spring’s pothole conditions.

    Paul Lundgren | Apr 9, 2014 | New Comment
  26. @Endion: I’m just curious: Do you run the same tires in the winter that you do in the summer? If so, are they “regular” all-weather, “aggressive” all weather, or rain tires? If you run winter tires in the winter, do you have them on all fours, or just front? Is your car FWD, AWD, 4WD or RWD?

    aluminumpork | Apr 9, 2014 | New Comment
  27. Here is Mayor Ness’ statement from his Facebook page:

    For the 5th consecutive fiscal year, the City of Duluth will add to our general fund reserve. Despite a very challenging budget year in 2013 (which included 50” of snow in April and a extensive snow removal OT in December) our budget year-end analysis shows that we will have a $500k+ surplus for 2013. This is due to taking a conservative approach to operational expenditures throughout the year to overcome these massive unanticipated expenses. It’s a remarkable accomplishment given the challenges we faced.

    Today, we are announcing that we are dedicating the majority of these surplus dollars to double our pothole program this year with an additional $400k for additional seasonal employees and materials. Instead of 2-3 crews, we will have a full 7 street repair crews this season. This will allow us to more quickly fill existing potholes as well as allow us to do 100+ lane miles of crack-sealing later in the season.

    The full program will start in late May, the moment that the hot-mix plant opens. Remember, the crews that you see around town today are using a cold-mix material, which is a temporary fix of the deepest and most dangerous potholes. Unfortunately, the hot-mix plant does not open until weight limits are lifted from our streets – this normally happens around May 15, but because the frost went so deep this year, it will most certainly be later than that this year.

    Hot-mix material is needed to make permanent repairs and to have patches that will stick with a heavy rain and will adhere to shallow potholes. Using cold-mix material in a shallow pothole is essentially throwing money away, it will wash away with the first hard rain. This makes for a very frustrating time for all of us because during the melt, our streets will continue to deteriorate and more potholes will emerge, but our crews will only be able to make temporary repairs.

    Fortunately, with today’s news that we will double our repair capacity this season, on that first day that the hot mix plant is open, we will have 7 crews out in full force making those repairs. In the meantime, I hope folks can be patient with the damage we have seen from one of the harshest winters in Duluth’s history.

    Paul Lundgren | Apr 9, 2014 | New Comment
  28. @ Endion… I am not complaining about winter or the city salting just pointing out that the salt may be a cause for the roads to be in such poor shape and the salt and repairs cost a lot of money. Maybe there is a better way? I have to drive up and down hills everyday and am not complaining about it just looking for what’s best for our city.

    Your comments bring up some important points. You said “There were three times this winter that my car slid backward due to poor salting by the city. It is dangerous and this year has been an embarrassment in my view.” (sounds like a complaint about salting to me?) and my response is was that really the city’s fault? Did you really slide backwards because of the city’s poor salting or because you made the personal decision to drive up a hill that was slippery in a vehicle that wasn’t equipped to drive up said hill in those conditions? The reality is that we live in Northern MN and it does snow and we make choices about when and where to drive. There is no way the city can get to all the hills in time for every resident not slide around a little so let’s cut the city some slack on that one.

    I will again go back to, how did people travel up those same exact hills in old cars before we started using salt? Were there more accidents? Less? Were their expectations of winter driving different than ours? I don’t know those answers and is why I introduce this into the discussion to try and find out if using salt is really worth it or if our expectations are just out of whack?

    I do agree that the sand in the storm sewers is not a good thing. The beet juice, and I think WI has tested cheese brine, might be better environmental alternatives, but I believe they work on the same principle that the salt does and likely do the same damage due to the freeze/thaw thing? Anyone know about that?

    I just read back through most of the comments and ironically, the only real complaint I could find about the city salting comes from Endion… lol. I’m sure Fargo will welcome you.

    rappdaddy | Apr 9, 2014 | New Comment
  29. I don’t think it’s a matter of people being p**sies, the hills in Duluth are no joke in the winter time. You can say “why aren’t you putting on snow tires?” but the reality is that not everyone can afford to throw on new tires. At times, because my work allows it, when I feel the road conditions are unsafe I take a day of vacation but not everyone has that luxury.

    I pay taxes so that the roads are driveable, but I don’t expect miracles either. We’re all on a budget.

    I don’t consider the difficulty we had with the weather this year as an “embarassment” to Duluth. I think the MNDOT and city employee folks were doing their damndest to keep up and for the most part did a great job considering. I think what we got going on right now salt-wise is the best Duluth can do for now. Keep testing new things! I don’t see Duluth being resistant to using alternative de-icing products.

    Makoons | Apr 11, 2014 | New Comment

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