The ice may be gone, but it left behind the curse of drivers everywhere — more potholes. "Water’s the enemy,” said Tim Ishmael, unit operations supervisor for Oklahoma City’s Street Maintenance division. "The freeze-thaw cycle causes most of these potholes out there now.” Ishmael estimates about 8,000 potholes a month are patched along the 13,000 lane miles in Oklahoma City. It’s not just nature. Other factors, such as water line ruptures, heavy traffic and sometimes shoddy contractor repairs can contribute to pothole formation. The city’s performance goal is to handle 80 percent of pothole repair requests within three working days. "We just line up those work orders on the clipboards,” Ishmael said. "It’s a logistical ordeal. Some roads are so bad we’ll have to send more trucks and people to make the three-day goal.” Just a portion of the repair requests come from the city’s Action Center or pothole hot line. Most come from other agencies or departments. The periods following ice or heavy rains tend to bring out the most potholes, but the city’s 13 pothole patch trucks stay busy year-round, Ishmael said.
On the streetsLast week, supervisor Bill Webb, crew chief Michael "Speedy” Windham and James Stewart picked up work orders and started their day with a trip to the city’s River Yard at 900 S Santa Fe to pick up some cold-lay asphalt. The typical pothole takes less than 15 minutes to fix. Webb parks his pickup about 20 yards behind the asphalt truck, setting up a makeshift work zone with cones. He flags traffic as Windham and Stewart get to work, dropping the sticky asphalt mix into a pothole, smoothing it off and finally using a 400-pound roller to make it flat. Some drivers have little time for the work crew, though Webb doesn’t take it personally. "Overall, the public is pretty decent about it,” Webb said. "We’re just fixing those holes so nobody gets hurt or damages their vehicle.”
Insurance might helpHitting a pothole can damage tires, wheels and suspension systems, among others items. Damage could be covered by the collision portion of auto insurance, according to State Farm Insurance. However, most auto insurance won’t cover damage to just tires. In the past three years, drivers in Oklahoma City filed almost 200 pothole claims with the city totaling $103,000. The city has awarded just $15,000. Drivers fare worse with the state: Claims totaling $1.26 million have been filed, but none have been paid. Out on state highways, potholes are less of a problem than on stretches of uneven roads, said Terri Angier, spokeswoman for the state Transportation Department. "Sometimes we get calls on potholes, but we have more rough spots that could develop into potholes, and we try to fix those immediately,” Angier said.
AT A GLANCEPothole damage claims Drivers claiming potholes damaged their vehicles have a high bar to pass in Oklahoma in order to get paid. Generally, officials said, drivers have to provide sufficient evidence that the city, county or state knew about the pothole for a period of time and didn’t take steps to repair it. Most of the legal protections come from the Government Tort Claims Act. Sources: City of Oklahoma City Municipal Counselor; state Transportation Department
To report or complain→To make a complaint in Oklahoma City, call 631-1111 or *OKC on your cell phone. →To report potholes on state highways in the Oklahoma City metro area, call 231-4DOT or *55 on your cell phone.
ONLINESearch pothole complaints made in 2008