State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

Pothole Problems Under Control Despite Wicked Winter

by on March 13, 2015 6:00 AM

We've seen snow, sleet and freezing rain in various combinations.

But despite the nasty winter, we're not seeing a terribly big crop of potholes which frequently grow large when the weather begins to warm up.

Potholes happen when roadways repeatedly thaw out and refreeze, causing the pavement to break apart.

There may be a number of explanations for why State College roads appear to be in relatively good shape -- and perhaps surprisingly, the fact that it actually was a long, extremely cold winter, may be a big factor.

In Ferguson Township, road crews are reporting typical pothole problems but nothing extreme. 

"We do have a crew out that is doing potholes this week," says David Modricker, Ferguson Township's public works director. "Circleville Road, Park Lane, the intersection of Park Hills -- some of those areas have had a difficult winter, but they also happen to be roads that we have repairs planned for the summer. So right now we're doing temporary repairs and we'll do permanent repairs this summer."

David Modricker, PE, Public Works Director
David Modricker, PE, Public Works Director

Modricker says roads are in pretty good shape overall because Ferguson Township's five year capital improvement program budgets for pothole repairs and ongoing maintenance such as sealing roads to help preserve them.

"It felt like a tough winter because it was so cold and there were so many events and ice storms and we had to make so many rounds of the township with plowing and salting" says Modricker, adding, "The fact that the ground froze and stayed frozen is actually to our benefit.

"Because when you get the winters where it freezes and then it gets warm, then it freezes and gets warm, you get a lot more freeze-thaw action, and it's the freeze-thaw action that makes it really rough on the roads and really brings the potholes out."

According to Patton Township Public Works Director Brent Brubaker, "It's one of the worst years we've had. I'd characterize it as a little worse than normal."

Even though it's worse than usual, Patton Township isn't seeing a ton of potholes, in part because many of the roads are newer and the township also has an aggressive road maintenance program.

Still, Brubaker points to sections of Valley Vista Drive, Meeks Lane and the Julian Pike as areas that have potholes that will need repaired.

The roads are holding up well in College Township, where township manager Adam Brumbaugh says potholes are always part of the equation. "It was a difficult winter and it would be a bit of a minor miracle if there weren't a few potholes that reveal themselves once we really get a thaw underway," he says. "But all in all, in general, the condition of the roadways is pretty good."

Brumbaugh says his public works department is stocking up on patching material but so far isn't aware of any pothole complaints from residents.

In State College Borough, operations manager Eric Brooks is also expecting to see more potholes in the coming days.

"With the freeze thaw cycle, potholes will become more evident the closer we get to spring," says Brooks. "We have addressed potholes this past week with a two man crew. We haven’t had any roads fall apart yet like we did last year." Part of University Drive had to be repaved last summer because of all the pothole problems there.

Brooks says his crews will be patching potholes as they happen.

Ditto for Harris Township. "We typically do see potholes this time of year," says township manager Amy Farkas. "We patch them as we see them. We encourage our residents call and report any potholes they may see."

PennDOT crews have also been filling potholes on some state roads including Route 26 and I-99.

"We’ve not received any specific complaints for potholes but we are trying to be proactive and take care of the potholes as they pop up and hopefully before we get the calls," says Marla Fanin, a PennDOT spokesperson. She adds that potholes come every spring, along with robins and warmer temperatures.

"This is a regular maintenance kind of an issue for us," she says. "It's not something that we're unprepared for and it's not something that we're not able to deal with."


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Steve Bauer was the Managing Editor of Steve and his wife Trina are longtime area residents. They reside in State College along with a wacky Golden Retriever named Izzy.
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