Abnormal rains spur pothole problems in Placer County

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Placer County is dealing with the rim-scraping, tire-popping after-effects of an abnormally torrential rainy season. As the ground dries out, roads are starting to sprout a new and above-average crop of that bane of drivers – potholes. Kevin Taber, Placer County road maintenance division manager, said that from the snow-cleared roadways of the Tahoe area to the rural stretches of the foothills and valley floor, early signs are that the Public Works Department is in for quite a year of patching and repaving. “Our crews have been dealing with record snowfalls and now they’re dealing with the fallout from all that precipitation,” Taber said. “With so much water in the ground, we’re seeing the pavement come up in spots we’ve never seen before – even on roads that don’t have a heavy traffic load.” In the Auburn area, precipitation is nearly double the norm for the season to date, with 45.55 inches recorded, compared to the 23.84-inch average. The season runs from July to June, but recordable rainfall doesn’t normally start coming down until at least mid-October. The county’s website allows people to report problem potholes and staff can handle calls at (530) 889-7565 during business hours weekdays. Taber said that until warmer weather arrives for a more permanent fix, the best county crews can do now is to apply a temporary cold patch. “We’re starting to get more calls and complaints,” he said. “And we’re finding it’s a countywide problem.” Some of the most problematic potholes are appearing in the Tahoe area, where the road above some utility trenches has been undermined, causing 12-inch-deep trenches in some areas, Taber said. “Some potholes can be safety hazards and some are more nuisances,” he said. The real damage on roads from the rain should be apparent in the next 1½ months as the temperature rises and roadbeds that are now spongy dry out. “As it warms, the water evaporates, leaving a void and the roads blow apart,” Taber said. “This is the real spring break.” Taber said that – like homeowners waiting for a snowplow – people should be aware Public Works crews are working diligently and the county is aware of the problem. “We can’t be everywhere at once but we’re trying our best,” he said. In Auburn, City Manager Bob Richardson said he feels city roads have generally been holding up well. “Potholes may seem more evident because of our maintenance cycle, where we concentrate on drainage and tree limbs,” Richardson said. “As the summer months get closer, we tackle the streets because the weather is more temperate.” Pothole reports within Auburn city limits can be phoned in to (530) 823-4211 Extension 3. From there, callers should follow the prompts. All reports will be reviewed on whether they need an immediate repair or the work can be held off for a more permanent fix with hot asphalt in the summer, Richardson said.