PEKIN — Like the winter that brought it, pothole season in Tazewell County’s larger communities started early and appears in a hurry to end.
Washington has already poured about six tons of asphalt-based cold patch into gouges torn from its streets by the mixture of moisture, a hard freeze in December and thaws akin to March since then.
“That’s slightly ahead of our pace for the whole season” that typically ends in March, said Ed Andrews, the city’s director of public works.
The state’s ongoing financial woes have not impacted winter street repairs in those cities along with Pekin and Morton, street officials there said. While Morton uses fees charged to homeowners, the others cover their pothole repair costs with local tax dollars.
Issues can arise, however, when a city road is also a state highway, with repairs the responsibility of the Illinois Department of Transportation.
On such roads in Pekin, pothole repair “is a little tricky,” said Bob Shaw, supervisor of the city’s Streets and Solid Waste Department. “If it poses a danger, we get to it right away” without waiting for a state repair crew.
Shaw did just that Tuesday after hearing about a woman’s expensive encounter with a pothole,
Ann Eliza Street is also Illinois Route 9 where it feeds onto the McNaughton Bridge after crossing a busy set of railroad tracks.
That’s where Angie Shanahan-Bennett, of Pekin, heard her car “go pop” when it struck a pothole just beyond the tracks, she said. Two weeks later, the pothole remained and Shanahan-Bennett was out $600 in repair costs.
A call from the Daily Times brought Shaw to inspect the pothole. “We’re fixing that right now,” he said. Within 10 minutes after he summoned a road crew, the hole was filled.
With a good chunk of winter left, here’s how the pothole picture is developing in Tazewell’s cities.
“We’vealready laid 20 tons (of cold patch) and we’re halfway through our second 20,” said Street Department worker Mark Wilson.
“We’ve been out almost every day” with a two-man crew filling potholes, Shaw said. “We’ve been checking the main streets and are working subdivisions now.” The thaw is producing them, “but I’ve seen it worse in past years.”
After December’s cold start, “It’s been a soft winter” that’s kept repair crews busy, said city Superintendent of Streets Ric Semonski. “We keep fixing them, and they keep popping up.
“I expect less of a problem this spring,” he said, unless winter restarts the pothole cycle with another deep freeze.
Andrews pointed to his department’s advanced dip into its cold-patch supplies as evidence of the unusual pothole season. While early, it’s not as bad as others, he said.
“The worst I’ve seen was 2013-2014, right after the tornado” that tore through the city that November. “We had extended cold” that, with spring’s thaw, produced a pothole outbreak that forced the city to close parts of U.S. Highway 24’s business leg for repairs, he said.
The village’s strategy of emphasizing street maintenance through its Storm Water Fund, the product of a separate fee charged to homeowners, keeps potholes to a minimum, said Director of Public Works Craig Loudermilk.
“We’ve spent about a week so far” on repairs. “It’s been a light year so far.
“I would say Morton’s had the foresight to tackle (street) problems and maintenance every year with funding from the local fees,” he said.
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