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The problem with potholes

Town workers repair a large pothole on Main Street on Monday afternoon, January 4th. – © Rosalyn Roy / Wreckhouse Press Incorporated

PORT AUX BASQUES – If there’s one thing that people can count on besides death and taxes, it’s likely potholes.

As water freezes and thaws, it seeps into cracks in the asphalt and undermines it until vehicles passing over top cause it to collapse. With the milder temperatures this winter, the freeze-thaw cycle continues to take a toll on local roads.

“During the winter/spring season the Town asks residents to reduce their speed and drive with caution. The Town can not guarantee the condition of roads to be good at all times, and is continually making repairs whenever a pothole is reported,” said Town Manager Leon MacIsaac via e-mail.

Over the Christmas holidays, the Port aux Basques & Area Open Forum on Facebook lit up after one motorist lost a tire to a particularly large pothole on Main Street. Some responders even urged the motorist to sue for damages.

Usually damage to vehicles is covered by the owner’s insurance, but drivers do have the right to file suit against a municipality for damages. Doing that would likely be more expensive in the long run, and just proving the municipality liable can be difficult if not impossible.

“The claim would need to illustrate that the pothole was too big or deep, the driver had driven in a safe manner, made every attempt to avoid the pothole and the vehicle owner would have to prove that the municipality did not practice due diligence in addressing the repair,” stated MacIsaac.

MacIsaac’s letter noted that to date, the town has not received a written compensation claim because of a pothole, although the town office did receive a call from an individual who did not identify themself, asking if the town would replace a damaged tire.

“Staff did advise the individual that the Town does not typically provide compensation for tire damage,” wrote MacIsaac.

Municipalities are required to repair potholes within a specific time period from the date of its reporting, depending on certain conditions, clarified MacIsaac. Those can include weather conditions, availability of personnel, and materials required, and usually falls within a three-to-five day timespan.

“The size of what amounts to an unacceptably large pothole depends on the character of the street, its speed limit and average daily traffic. The type of road surface and the pothole’s location, on either the traveled portion of the road or the shoulder of the road, also determine how large a pothole has to be before it needs to be repaired and how long the municipality has to repair it,” MacIsaac stated.

Moreover, that clock only starts once a pothole is properly reported to the town. Once that happens, usually a temporary fix involving sandbags or a coldpatch will be put in until a stronger, more permanent repair can be done. If it’s the dead of winter, for example, that’s well outside of the traditional summer paving schedule, so the temporary fix may have to be replaced several times in the interim.

“The pothole has to be free of water and ice for a permanent repair, and even then, the permanent fix lifecycle is largely dependent on whether or not water infiltrates the repair again with the freeze-thaw cycle repeating itself.

“Town staff became aware of the pothole near Main Street Convenience after the heavy rainfall on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. Staff placed sandbags in the pothole as a temporary fix and returned again on Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020 to place coldpatch as a further temporary measure. Area potholes are monitored to determined whether further action is necessary.”

In fact, Public Works staff does keep a list of potholes within the municipality and a log of repairs made. On Monday, Jan. 4 staff were working to repair the tire-eating pothole on Main Street, but more rain was forecasted, which perpetuates the problem of potholes.

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