By BRIAN WALKER
Jenna McDaniel has had enough of dodging potholes on area roads.
“It’s been rough — literally and figuratively,” the Coeur d’Alene woman said as she filled her car with gas on Friday. “I’m tired of driving through the obstacle course.”
Officials at highway and street departments say they feel McDaniel's pain.
This winter’s freeze-thaw patterns, compounded by the continual heavy moisture, have crumbled and created craters in local streets and highways.
“That (weather combination) is a road's worst nightmare,” said Tim Martin, Coeur d’Alene’s street superintendent.
Martin said crews have been working on the problems with temporary fill since January — even though it may not seem that way. The recent rain and melting snow have limited how much work can be done.
“We have crews out every day patrolling areas that we know of along our arterial routes,” Martin said. “The issue is that you need dry conditions to get them to hold in place. As soon as the hot mix batch plants open, usually in April, we will begin our maintenance asphalt season (for permanent repairs).”
Martin said Coeur d'Alene has used 28 tons of cold mix for temporary fixes and has about 12 tons left. The city has filled 227 potholes this winter.
“Many of these have been filled more than once,” he said.
Martin said Fourth and 15th streets — both from Harrison to Best avenues — have been among the roughest streets in Coeur d'Alene.
“Both of these areas are experiencing delamination between two asphalt surfaces,” he said.
Kelly Brownsberger, Post Falls Highway District supervisor, said potholes in his district have been “a little worse” this year compared to others.
“But we don’t have anywhere close to what Spokane has,” he said.
Brownsberger thinks chip sealing maintenance — applying oil with small rock — has prevented more potholes from being created.
“That makes the road a little more flexible than pavement,” he said. “Chip sealing also helps keep the water out.”
Brownsberger said Post Falls began patching potholes as soon as the snow began melting about a month ago.
He said one of the hardest-hit areas of the district has been the Hauser area on Hauser Lake and Cliff House roads.
Another stretch that motorists have expressed concern over is Seltice Way from Coeur d'Alene to Huetter. That section will be rebuilt this year.
"It was built at a time when we just didn't have the traffic that we do now," Brownsberger said.
Hitting potholes has translated into business for tire shops, which have been busy adjusting alignments.
"We've been having seven or eight vehicles a day — sometimes even more," said Joe Meade, manager at Perfection Tire in Coeur d'Alene.
Motorists don't have to be traveling very fast to knock their alignment out of whack, Meade said.
"One guy came in and said his wife slid and hit a curb at only 15 mph," he said. "It doesn't take much."
Meade said hitting potholes can also damage tires to the point that they can't be repaired.
Most local highway districts have weight and speed restrictions for commercial traffic due to the roads being vulnerable with the wet weather. The restrictions will be lifted this spring as conditions dry up.
Residents are encouraged to call their local highway district or street department to report issues in the roadways.