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Calgary trying to keep pace with filling potholes as more appear

The City of Calgary has its hands full as more than 6,700 potholes have been filled since the start of the year, following up on its record-setting 33,489 pothole repairs last year.

“For comparison, this time last year, we’ve done about 5,800. So we’re a little higher than we were last year when we filled so far,” said Chris Hewitt, the City of Calgary’s manager of mobility maintenance.

“If you look at the service requests that are coming into the city, so far this year in that 4,000 range. Last year, we were about 3,400 this time, so not an enormous difference, somewhere in that 15 per cent region.”

Those numbers are updated as of May 5, 2024.

With warmer temperatures through the end of last year, the city traded snow plows for pothole repairs with a dry start to winter.

“What was challenging about a winter like this and last winter is that we saw a lot of freeze-thaw. So a lot of above and below zero. So that’s when you’re really going to see potholes start to form up,” said Hewitt.

“You have all this snow and ice melting when it’s warm, getting into the cracks in the roads. And then we’re freezing up again. It expands. It causes these potholes.”

Hewitt adds that some winter seasons see around a dozen freeze-thaw cycles, making the impacts less severe on roads.

“If we had less than 30 or 40 this year, I’d be surprised,” he said.

“We really had a lot of water getting into the roads and then freezing out, and that’s what will typically cause more potholes come spring.”

The city says it looks at prioritizing potholes by the speed limit on a certain roadway, how many vehicles travel on it and where it is located.

“Is it right in a wheel path, or is it maybe off to the side where it’s more likely to be avoided?” said Hewitt.

“We’re looking at doing work on the major roads at nighttime obviously, we’re trying to keep off those roads in the daytime when they’re busy.

The city’s annual budget for pothole repair is $6.9 million, while Calgary’s pavement quality index is 41/100, below the Canadian average of 61/100.

On Tuesday, the rain slowed progress as the conditions were not ideal for mixing water with boiling oil and tar.

However, the city plans to keep crews out every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday along with one day over the weekend, to keep repairs on schedule.

OK Tire Northmount in the northwest says they are busy with regular spring maintenance.

“Right now, it’s mostly tires, 90 per cent tires,” said manager Martin Kasinsky.

He says the odd service repair is to deal with drivers hitting potholes.

“Especially with the lower profile tires like some of the German cars and the higher end vehicles, one pothole can get a little bit pricey,” said Kasinsky.

“You can see bent wheels, you can see impact brakes on tires or suspension components from that as well. Usually, the first indicator if it’s a pretty big impact on a pothole is you’ll notice there’s a wobble or shake while you’re driving or pull or drift to a left or right, depending where it was hit.”

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