Portland’s Pothole Fill-A-Thon

posted by Brad Ford -

Late winter freezes and snow flurries left Portland streets with hundreds of potholes. Crews with the Portland Bureau of Transportation quickly switched from snow and ice clearing to pothole patching, placing extra crews on pothole work to get through a backlog of more than 500 reports submitted by everyday Portlanders.

For two weeks in March, PBOT assigned nine crews to focus on repairing potholes on city streets, up from the two crews assigned to potholes on a normal day. Workers who typically would be re-paving roads, patching utility cuts, or other preventive maintenance were spreading hot asphalt instead.

Crews filled almost 1,445 potholes at more than 350 locations -- more than two months worth of patches in just two weeks! From March 19 to March 30, the number of pending pothole requests from the public dropped from 297 to 51, as crews responded to reports, often filling multiple potholes at each location.

Since Jan. 1, PBOT crews have filled more than 4,500 potholes.

Certainly, the winter of 20017-18 was more mild than the year before, when more than a dozen days of snow and ice ballooned the pothole count to more than 1,000. PBOT crews filled more than 15,000 potholes in 2017, nearly double the 8,000 potholes filled in a typical year.

While patching potholes is a fundamental part of PBOT's maintenance work, it's not the most cost effective or strategic approach. Potholes are a symptom of a failing street. They can be prevented with regular preventive maintenance that keeps the pavement in fair or better condition.

So PBOT devotes more crews and more resources to the kind of preventive maintenance that prevents potholes from forming. These investments demonstrate the bureau’s financial stewardship: investments in preventative maintenance save the city money by addressing pavement condition before a costly rebuild is required.

The Bureau has a goal of preventive maintenance on 100 lane miles of pavement each year, using a variety of treatment methods. Sometimes crews provide a base repair, digging deep into a small, failing section of a street. In other cases, cracks in the road surface can be sealed, keeping water out and extending the pavement's usable life. A third technique, grinding a repaving, consists of grinding off the top inch or two of asphalt, and replacing it with fresh material. A good example of that is the grinding and paving project crews are working on through April 14 on SW Jefferson St, between SW Park Ave and SW 20th Ave.

The Fixing Our Streets Program, funded by a voter-approved 10-cent gas tax and a Heavy Vehicle Use Tax, also provides essential local resources for basic maintenance. That program has already improved dozens of street segments with base repairs. Southwest Main Street, between SW First and Third avenues, downtown was also rebuilt thanks to Fixing Our Streets.

From this spring through August, Fixing Our Streets will start 19 projects investing $20 million in street maintenance, which many projects including safety improvements as well.

  • Learn more about pavement maintenance techniques 
  • Learn more about PBOT's pothole program 
  • Learn about the condition of our pavement system and other PBOT assets by reading the Asset Status & Condition Report 
  • Report potholes by phone at 503-823-1700, or email pdxroads@portlandoregon.gov or using the PDXReporter.org mobile web site.

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