City, state collaborate to conquer pesky potholes

By ALLEN LAMAN
alaman@dcherald.com

JASPER — As a winter of freezes and thaws slowly melts to an end, Hoosier drivers find themselves in an all-too-familiar situation.

Long gone are the days of driving in a straight line, and back is the necessary swerving, dodging, slowing down to a crawl and last-ditch re-routing to keep tires safe from those deep craters that have formed in many roadways.

It’s pothole season. And while it’s bad — it’s always bad — state and county road officials say that as a whole, this winter isn’t any more troublesome than recent years.

Driving on U.S. 231 in Jasper, however, can feel like maneuvering through a minefield of uneven road. Further challenges arise in the areas where vehicles are restricted by the city’s ongoing waterline replacement project.

Street Commissioner Jeff Theising said he thinks the city has been hit harder than usual this time around. By channeling traffic into narrower lanes as part of the water main project, vehicles are forced to travel the exact same path, expediting the damage done to the road.

“If you put cones up and you force everybody to stay in the same eight feet, the cars are just going to continually follow that same path,” Theising said. “Whether it’s a truck or whether it’s a small car. And so it just keeps getting beat, wheel after wheel after wheel, on the same spot. If there’s moisture under there, it’s gonna get a lot of punishment.”

The pesky cavities form when water seeps through road surfaces like asphalt or concrete and freezes. This causes the road surface to expand. After the moisture dries, a hole is left beneath the road. When vehicles drive over these areas, their weight eventually shatters the road, birthing a pothole.

Jason Tiller, the Indiana Department of Transportation’s Southwest Indiana communications director, said INDOT crews have been out patching holes on the Newton Street portion of U.S. 231. Theising said city crews have also filled spots in problem areas on the road.

“It’s a little more complicated up where they’re doing the water main replacement,” Tiller said of his department’s work. “Anything that’s within that construction zone is the responsibility of the contractor. So, not necessarily potholes that pop up, but anything that’s in their work zone.”

He continued: “We understand they’ve got work going on, so anything that happens there ... if there’s big potholes that are not related to that job, obviously those are INDOT’s responsibility. But while they’ve got the road torn up right now, it’s kind of hard to determine what is what.”

Theising noted that the city and INDOT have worked cooperatively throughout the tough year.

“I think between the two agencies, I think we’re trying to catch ‘em before they get just horrible,” he said of the potholes. “I know there was one stretch there, a couple day period where they (the potholes) were just really bad.”

Theising said the road is in better shape now than it was a couple weeks ago. He added that the city plans to continue patchwork projects. He encouraged readers to contact the street department and inform them about the location of potholes throughout the city.

“If you see a pothole — we’re not going to see every one of ‘em — don’t hesitate to call us,” he said. “We don’t want ‘em any more than you do, so if you call us, we’ll try and get out there that day yet and patch it if at all possible.”

The Jasper Street Department Office can be reached at 482-1130. Tiller also encouraged concerned members of the public to report potholes along U.S. 231 to INDOT. The department’s customer service line number is 1-855-463-6848.




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