Potholes pose problems for city

GLOVERSVILLE – The heavy snow and bitter cold this winter has been tough on everyone and everything, including the roads and automobiles.

Department of Public Works crews in the city have spent hours during the last couple weeks dumping truck loads of patching material into large potholes on city streets.

DPW Director Kevin Jones said he believes this is the worst winter in terms of the number of potholes appearing around the city, which he attributed to the persistent thawing and freezing cycle this winter has brought. The freezing and thawing water expands the asphalt, causing cracks and potholes, he said.

Jones said his crews are doing everything they can to keep up with potholes, but the cold patch material, which is used as a temporary patch until the weather gets warmer and blacktop can be used, won’t seal.

He said he had a crew patch a hole on East Fulton Street near the city line and in just a matter of a few days it fell apart due to the amount of water located in and around the pothole.

He explained the problem will become even more prevalent as the weather starts to heat up again and the patching will have trouble staying on the road with the wet conditions.

Jones said the issues of water and ice on the roadway are actually caused by the design of the roads in the city. He said the county and state design their roads to be “high and dry” while city streets are built “low and wet” with curbing to allow the city streets to take care of water with storm drains.

He said this design allows the water to sit on the street longer and seep into the asphalt, unlike on state or county roads where the moisture will trickle to the side of the roadway into a ditch or grassy area.

“People don’t want that water in their front yard so all that water comes into the street,” he said. “The city is expected to handle that storm water. The biggest things you fight with are water and frost and we are configured to have all that stuff in the streets.”

The city paved 14 city streets across all six wards last year and those roads should last about 15 years if everything goes according to plan, although weather conditions can shorten that lifespan.

“The life expectancy of a repaired road is about 15 years, but we may not always get that because a lot a factors are in play,” he said. “As they say in the engineering profession nature is a mother. You really never know what is going to happen until it happens.”

In Fulton County, Highway Superintendent Mark Yost also said it is not traffic, but the constant winter frost and freezing that makes the roads shift and damages them.

“We have [done] a pretty good job on the paving of roads and I don’t think we have any roads right now that are in poor condition,” Yost said. “If you have a decent road with a decent subbase you aren’t going to have this problem.”

Jones and Yost said in the spring county and city road officials start planning which roads will be replaced later in the year, and that work requires money, which comes from the state Consolidated Highway Improvement Program.

Jones said CHIPS was originally intended to be a supplement to match the cities intended road repair budget but over the years as budgets have grown tighter many rely on that money as the sole funding for all work to be done within the next year.

In addition all road maintenance has become increasingly expensive, as inflation has raised the cost of road repairs through fuel, employee and asphalt material increases.

Some costs have gone up by a significant amount in the last few years, while the level of funding has remained flat, he said.

The city receives approximately $360,000 every year in CHIPS funding, Jones said.

He said while that funding will go to the full repaving of select city streets, he also has about $30,000 within the budget to purchase the blacktop that is used for permanent patching on the remaining city streets.

He said the original list of potential locations is always much larger than the city can afford and is based on an evaluation of the streets, public complaints and requests from the public or council members.

However, the location of the roads always plays one of the biggest factors in how soon they are repaired, officials said, because a damaged road with high traffic needs to be fixed as soon as possible.

State Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Jim Piccola said this year the Department of Transportation has already nearly doubled the amount of patch material used across the state compared to last year. He said last year about 8,000 tons of material was used, while so far this year 16,000 tons have been used.

“The city of Gloversville is not unique to this pothole situation,” King said. “It’s something that happens after hard winters and the last few years we have really been spoiled. Since I’ve been in office this is the first real winter we’ve had and we are out there filling them to the best of our ability, but people need to be patient. That is going to be our top priority once this weather starts to break so that we can make it safer for motorists.”

King encouraged residents and those commuting through the city to remain vigilant to avoid potholes, and also to report any that need to be addressed.

Johnstown and Montgomery County officials were unavailable for comment on this story.