Pothole patrol: NJ crews hit roadways after harsh winter takes traffic toll

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Tuesday, March 1, 2022
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Toni Yates reports New Jersey's annual campaign to repair potholes is underway, with crews hitting the streets as a harsh winter continues to take its toll on highways.

NEW JERSEY (WABC) -- New Jersey's annual statewide campaign to repair potholes is underway, with crews hitting the streets as a harsh winter continues to take its toll on highways.

Continually fluctuating temperatures above and below freezing as well as some major storms early in the season that brought snow and ice have resulted in a significant amount of potholes, which are created by water seeping into cracks in the asphalt and then expanding when it freezes.

"When water or any sort of moisture gets inside of those cracks, water finds a way to get into the imperfections," NJDOT Senior Director of Operations Chris Feinthel said. "And then if it freezes underneath, ice will create literally inside the asphalt, and it will pop everything open."

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To deal with potholes in the most aggressive and efficient manner, the DOT will be allowing crews throughout the state to close travel lanes where necessary during daytime hours.

Where possible, crews will limit their daytime work hours to 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will try to avoid working in travel lanes carrying traffic during peak times.

"The New Jersey Department of Transportation is beginning our annual pothole campaign...and will continue for the next couple of months until we have repaired the most significant potholes from this winter," DOT Commissioner Gutierrez-Scaccetti said. "NJDOT crews work year-round to repair potholes and keep our highways in good condition, but at this time of year it becomes a primary focus."

NJDOT will be using Variable Message Signs to alert motorists of the campaign and, to the extent possible, of lane closures that could result in temporary travel delays.

As the weather warms up and asphalt plants reopen, crews will start to perform permanent patch operations on particularly problematic sections of roadway.

This is more extensive work that includes milling and paving a small area of the road and generally will be done overnight.

In the past five fiscal years, NJDOT has repaired an average of 183,500 potholes per year.

So far in fiscal year 2022, NJDOT has already repaired about 87,500 potholes, with the busiest pothole repair season just starting.

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A new survey from AAA found that in 2021, one in 10 drivers sustained vehicle damage significant enough to warrant a repair after hitting a pothole. With an average price tag of almost $600 per repair, damage caused by potholes cost drivers a staggering $26.5 billion in 2021 alone.

"When a vehicle hits a pothole with any kind of force, the tires, wheels and suspension can sustain expensive damage," said Robert Sinclair, Jr., of AAA Northeast.

A survey by AAA found that two-thirds of drivers are concerned about potholes on local roadways, and most of them are in the Northeast.

--74 percent of drivers in the Northeast

--68 percent of drivers in the Midwest

--61 percent of drivers in the South

--57 percent of drivers in the West

The goal is to have the roads in shape before the warm weather arrives and the crew take on more summertime duties like mowing along the highways.

If you know a pothole that needs fixing, you can call 1-800-POT-HOLE to report it.

"With that, a work ticket is created, and it goes in an email right to that crew supervisor," Feinthel said. "(We) check it out, and if it's valid, we'll fox it."

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