It's a perfect storm for potholes and puddles in Twin Cities

  • Article by: DANIELLE DULLINGER and CODY NELSON , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 11, 2014 - 5:01 AM

Abdullahi Mohamed, 9, tried to avoid slipping into a large sidewalk puddle after getting off the school bus on Monday in suddenly soggy Minneapolis.

Photo: AMANDA SNYDER • Special to the Star Tribune,

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Monday’s thaw had Minnesotans awash in bliss, driving with car windows half-rolled down, or strolling in the warmth and sunshine.

That is, when they weren’t lurching through axle-cracking potholes or wading through puddles the size of small lakes. Potholes and puddles. They happen every year. But this year’s pre-spring potholes and puddles are much worse than usual, thanks to the particularly brutal winter, state Department of Transportation spokesman Kent Barnard said Monday.

And with more than 4,000 lane-miles of busy roads in the Twin Cities metro area, crews can’t get to them all at once, Barnard said.

Mike Kennedy, director of transportation and repair for the city of Minneapolis, echoed that caution, saying that this winter’s conditions combined “the perfect ingredients to create a bad pothole season.”

The relentless subzero weather caused frost to creep more deeply

into the soil, trapping more moisture than usual.

The deep cold also led to more pavement cracking and buckling.

And now comes the melt — the season for sometimes daily freeze-thaw cycles.

Monday brought a thaw. Much of Tuesday will bring temperatures below freezing, with a chance of freezing rain or light snow — the ideal recipe for even more potholes and puddles.

Anoka County engineer Doug Fischer said it’s all just part of spring in Minnesota. “We’re all glad the weather changes,” he said. “But along with the changing weather comes the explosion of potholes on our system.”

Around the state, on city streets, county roads and state highways, crews are working day and night to fill the holes and drain the puddles. Sometimes, more than once.

Fischer said some Anoka County residents have called wondering when certain potholes will get fixed even after they have already been patched a time or two. It’s been so cold that pothole filler doesn’t stick well to frozen roads, he said.

The arrival of spring allows road crews to switch from a cold-weather asphalt mix to a more effective hot one. But that’s still a temporary fix until crews resurface or restructure the road entirely.

Older roads that haven’t had as much repair or upkeep in recent years have been the hardest hit, Barnard said. But, he added, “I wouldn’t say there’s any [road] that has escaped unscathed.”

And keeping up with repairs can be like the arcade game Whac-A-Mole as new potholes pop up or resurface overnight. That’ll be the case until warmer, drier weather arrives for good, officials said.

“A really important thing to realize at this time [is] everything we do is a temporary fix,” Minneapolis’ Kennedy said.

Fischer said his crews’ top priorities are patching potholes so large that they could be dangerous, as well as those on high-speed, high-traffic routes.

“We’re just trying to hit all the wheel-busters out there,” Fischer said, adding that smaller “nuisance” potholes will get fixed later.

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  • Above: On Minnehaha Parkway near E. 51st Street in Minneapolis, cars wading through several inches of water created a wake.

  • Kathunk and kersplash! Cars navigated the potholes on E. 28th Street near S. 4th Avenue in Minneapolis on Monday.

  • On Minnehaha Parkway near E. 51st Street, cars had to drive through several inches of water, enough to create a wake.

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