COLUMBIA — Last week's near-blizzard did more than just drop close to 18 inches of snow on Columbia residents.
Apparently, it's making the city’s pothole problem worse.
“Because of the temperature and amount of snow and rain that we’ve had this winter, we are expecting to see more potholes this year than what we’ve had in the past,” Columbia Department of Public Works spokeswoman Jill Stedem said.
Potholes are the result of aging roads being bombarded with heavy traffic and precipitation.
As roads age, traffic creates cracks, and when precipitation seeps in, a series of ‘freeze-thaw’ cycles causes the cracks to expand. The resulting potholes can cause damage to vehicles and accidents as drivers attempt to avoid them.
Repairing potholes requires warm weather, Stedem said, so hot asphalt can be applied to the cavity and properly adhere. The city will most likely have to wait for the asphalt plant to open in April to begin fixes.
Meanwhile, the city will use a cold patch — a modified asphalt mix — to temporarily fix the problem. Cold patches do not require warm weather and can be put into place relatively quickly.
Although the heavy snowfall has exacerbated the potholes issue, city authorities say repairing them will come at no extra charge to taxpayers.
The larger number of potholes won't affect the city’s street division budget, Stedem said. The street division’s 2011 fiscal year budget is roughly $6.4 million and includes estimates for road repair and cold patch placement.
*Sarah Perry, the city’s risk manager, encouraged residents to report potholes whenever possible, saying the city can be held liable for pothole damage to cars only if it knows in advance about the problem.
*Asked how quickly the city responds when told about a pothole, Perry said that when she has called the street division about an issue, "they're usually out within 24 hours."
The extent of the damage to Columbia’s roads won’t be fully known until all of the snow is removed. Until then, report potholes by visiting the city's website or calling 874-6289.