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Recovery from freeze is a bumpy road.

Byline: Susan Palmer The Register-Guard

Like rowdy house guests who overstay their welcome and trash the place, the snow and ice storms of the previous 10 days left a parting shot on their way out the door.

Potholes.

The freeze-thaw cycle is murder on road surfaces, said Don Ehrich, Springfield-based district manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Water seeps into roadway cracks and crevices, then freezes and expands, breaking up the asphalt or concrete.

Cars drive over the busted surface, knocking out the broken bits. That leaves holes, from gashes so small that they're hardly visible to craters deep enough to snap an axle.

ODOT transportation maintenance specialists Dale Myers and Ed Wagner spent Thursday driving Jasper Road to Highway 58 then west to Highway 99, looking for holes to fill.

On Jasper Road, the two stopped to patch up a series of hubcap-size holes with cracks radiating out from them.

"When it gets all alligatored out like that, the water gets underneath the pavement and freezes, then pushes it up and pops it out," Myers said.

The worst hole of the season, though, had to be a 3 1/2 -by-5-foot crater about 8 inches deep that they patched on Interstate 5 a month ago, he said. No such gaping breaks marred the roads they traveled Thursday.

Not all the damage can be blamed on water and ice. Cars and trucks with chains also wreck road surfaces - problems multiplied when stuck vehicles spin their tires and the chains scour the road, Ehrich said.

Falling trees and branches also weigh in, slamming down onto roads and cracking the surface, creating new breaches for water to fill.

"It's almost like a cancer once you break open the surface - unless you deal with it in a very specific fashion, you'll continue to have a problem," he said.

It'll be another week before pothole crews get ahead of the damage left behind by the extreme weather, Ehrich said. They're limited to working nights on Interstate 5 because traffic during the day is too heavy.

But crews won't necessarily stay ahead. This time of year, they fill holes with a cold mix of gravel and asphalt, a quick-and-dirty solution with a short lifespan.

It takes a careful application of fresh hot asphalt to make a long-lasting road repair and that won't happen until the weather warms up.

On roads such as Highway 58 that see a lot of snow and ice, ODOT gets plenty of complaints, Ehrich said.

"I'll get e-mails saying: `Why the hell haven't you fixed this?' My response is: `We fixed it five times today and we'll fix it five times tomorrow.' '

The worst of Lane County's state roads seems to be the stretch of Highway 126 between Eugene and Florence, Ehrich said.

On county-owned roads, maintenance crews are still trying to get all the trees and downed branches removed and haven't assessed the pothole situation. In Springfield, roads on the west side of town were looking pretty good, but the east side hadn't been assessed yet, crew chief Art Ireland said.

Three Eugene city crews already were out patching holes Thursday, public works spokesman Eric Jones said.

"It's a high priority to get them patched even if it's only temporary, so they don't get worse," he said.

REPORT POTHOLES

Eugene roads: 682-4800

Springfield roads: 726-3761

Lane County roads: 682-6900

State roads: (800) 776-7718

MILD DAYS AHEAD

More rain: Winter extremes abate with rain today and tonight. Low of 40. High of 48. Expect clouds Saturday, a chance of showers and a high around 45 with a low near 35.

CAPTION(S):

Dale Myers of the Oregon Department of Transportation fills holes along Highway 99 South between Goshen and Creswell. Ice thawing under the surface causes many holes. INSIDE Still grounded: Freezing rain shuts down flights at the Portland International Airport for another day / D3
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Weather; Highway crews are hard at work trying to smooth out potholes caused by the cold
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jan 9, 2004
Words:645
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