DPW faces bumper crop of potholes this spring

With the end of the wettest winter in a century comes the start of what promises to be a busy pothole repair season.

San Francisco Department of Public Works spokeswoman Christine Falvey said Thursday that patch-paving repairs — where workers repave a section of asphalt to eradicate multiple potholes and other damage — are up 33 percent this year, from 382,583 square feet in 2004-05 to an estimated 417,000 square feet by the end of June.

California Department of Transportation spokeswoman Lauren Wonder said the Bay Area’s highways suffered $115 million worth of damage this storm season.

“When water gets into the roadbed it loosens up the soil or gravel or whatever the subsurface is, and it can erode the roadbed,” Metropolitan Transportation Commission spokesman John Goodwin said Thursday. Then you’ve got pavement that’s sitting on nothing and that’s how your pothole develops.”

The Bay Area saw plenty of water this winter, with San Francisco receiving 34.01 inches since July 2005. That’s about 157 percent of the normal 21.67 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Fortunately, DPW received an extra $15 million in April after Supervisor Sean Elsbernd introduced a measure to supplement the agency’s budget with The City’s surplus.

“I think it’s a basic responsibility of city government to take care of its streets and infrastructure,” Elsbernd said Thursday. He said that for the last 25 years, San Francisco has been underfunding its street maintenance, leaving a $281 million backlog of repair work. “By simply doing our annual maintenance fees, all we’re doing is not exacerbating the $281 million problem,” Elsbernd said. He said the city needs large-scale repair and renovation projects.

Meanwhile, crews with the DPW go out every day to hunt for potholes. Falvey said her agency finds 95 percent of The City’s potholes itself. They filled 11,600 potholes in2004-05, typically using 4,000 tons of asphalt in its pothole repair and patch-paving program.

Residents who want to report potholes can call (415) 695-2100 or e-mail potholes@sfdpw.org.

amartin@examiner.com

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