January 29, 2010
Bucks County Courier Times: Watch out for potholes

Before cursing at the driver in front of you for swerving across the road, realize that he might not be drunk but trying to avoid a pothole.

It’s that time of year again, when Bucks County goes through a deep freeze, then the next day it’s in the mid-40s and thoughts of spring are dancing in your head.

PennDOT is ready for the onslaught of the dreaded road holes that can knock your car out of alignment, cause a tire blowout and, in severe cases, bend or even break a wheel.

“It’s like bending a spoon,” said PennDOT’s Charles Metzger. “If you bend it enough, it breaks and that’s what happens to our roads when it freezes and then thaws. In North Dakota, the roads stay frozen all winter and they don’t have to deal with potholes.”

A pothole is created when moisture seeps into pavement, freezes, expands and then thaws. As temperatures warm the cold pavement, melting and evaporating ice, air pockets are created and eventually cause the pavement to break, Metzger said. A winter of heavy snow or rain and several freeze-thaw cycles can mean a big pothole season, he added.

Some roads have more potholes than others. They include roads with heavy traffic, older pavement or water seeping beneath them, like River Road in Bucks, Metzger said. Bridges and ramps also are prone to potholes.

His boss asks that people call the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s toll-free number, 1-800-FIX-ROAD (1-800-349-7623), to report potholes so they can be repaired quickly.

“With potholes making an earlier than usual appearance this year, we ask citizens to use our toll-free number,” said PennDOT District 6 Executive Lester C. Toaso.

PennDOT’s hot line is staffed from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. PennDOT asks callers to leave as much information as possible so crews can find the pothole. That includes the county, municipality, street name or route number and any description of familiar landmarks in the area, Metzger said.

A pothole killer exists right here in Bucks County.

Patch Management Inc. of Fairless Hills fills holes in roads with its “pothole killer,” a machine developed by company co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Scott Kleiger, said company spokesman Kirk Dorn.

Kleiger developed his patented technology, which uses a spray injection method. The machine needs only one employee and can fill a pothole in a minute to 90 seconds, Dorn said. This means roads and parking lots can remain open while repairs are being made, saving time, money and convenience, he said.

The Fairless Hills company has offices in Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Philadelphia and many counties across the state, said company President Craig Baclit. The company has about 40 trucks nationwide and 10 in the Philadelphia area, Baclit added.

“We do plenty of work for PennDOT and are busy keeping up with their needs. We use a hot material that is heated to 150 degrees and can fill a hole quickly and do not have to close any roads while we work, and we do not use any hazardous materials,” he said.