State crews are working to patch those pesky potholes

DES MOINES — Iowa roads that were knee-deep in snow and ice just a matter of days ago are quickly becoming moonscapes, as fender-rattling potholes are suddenly making our streets and highways a challenging obstacle course.

Bob Ellis, the Iowa Department of Transportation’s District 1 maintenance manager, says DOT crews are fanned out across the state, filling in those car-jarring craters as fast as they find them.

“Right now, we’re putting in what we call a cold mix. It’s a blend of rock chips, oil and some sand that we put in it temporarily to fill the hole,” Ellis says, “and then in the spring, we’ll come back and do more of a permanent fix, whether it be oil and rock chips to fill it in, or a permanent more full-depth or partial-depth patch.” Those springtime fixes are done with what’s known as a HMA or hot mix asphalt — and with concrete.

Ellis was asked to characterize the current condition of Iowa’s roads. “I would say they’re decent, as in normal Iowa roads,” Ellis says. “Now that we’ve got warm this week, so it’s pothole season again. Maybe in a week or two, we might be back in winter season again, I’m not sure, but they’re in decent shape, they’re not terrible.”

Some DOT officials can spout a litany of figures during the wintertime as to the hundreds of tons of salt and thousands of gallons of brine being spread on our roads, so a natural question to Ellis is, how many potholes do they fill in a week, a month or a year?

“I don’t even have that number. It’s a lot,” Ellis says. “Because we’re trying to get them fixed so quickly, I don’t track that right now.”

Hitting a large pothole at high speed may jar something loose in your molars as well as in your car’s suspension. If you can’t avoid one of the concrete chasms, Ellis was asked if there’s a proper procedure for going through a pothole.

“While there is no good way, I mean obviously, we don’t want them to swerve into another lane, so grip the steering wheel tight and get through it, and hopefully it doesn’t cause any damage,” Ellis says, “and if it does, we have a Claims Department they can contact.”

You can also report potholes on the interstates, Iowa numbered routes, and U.S. highways to the Iowa DOT’s maintenance manager located nearest the problem roadway. Find a list of contacts HERE.