The sun is out, the birds are singing and — BAM! — that pothole you hit is a reminder of a more jarring rite of spring.
Whenever winter is in the rearview mirror, city crews switch from snow clearing to pavement fixing as complaints start rolling in from motorists about crumbling roadways.
Six or seven years ago, Red Deer crews fixed up to 14,000 potholes a season. But public works manager Greg Sikora said that number has been reduced to less than 10,000 by better preventative road maintenance.
Public works crews are sealing thousands of cracks every fall that would otherwise allow rain and snow melt to get under roadways, eroding the soil and eventually causing the unsupported asphalt surface to give way.
By upping his department’s crack repair budget, he explained, the city doesn’t have to spend as much money or effort on repairing potholes.
For instance, Sikora’s said $348,700 was spent on crack fixing last year. The number of potholes was reduced to 8,668, and these were filled at a cost of $280,8oo.
The winter of 2019 in central Alberta was the most extreme in a half century or more. When the prolonged -30 C temperatures of February abruptly switched to above-zero, double digits in March, Sikora said conditions were ripe for more cracks to form in roads, due to frost.
“We’re always busy filling cracks,” said Sikora — and this spring could be even busier.
Four-person crews will essentially be working 20 hours a day doing various forms of roads maintenance, he said. As well, the city will be hiring additional contractors for crack sealing.
Inevitably — and despite the city’s best efforts — thousands of potholes have once again formed on Red Deer’s 600 kilometres of roads, causing some motorists to spill their coffee and call the city with their complaints.
All in all, “I think we’re in pretty good shape,” said Sikora.
But he added his department will be acting on public complaints. As well, city workers will be making their own rounds to assess the state of Red Deer’s roads.