In St. Paul, where it takes an average of 20 days for the city to address a request to fill a pothole, 1,926 complaints flooded in last year with descriptions like “insane potholes,” “pothole causing major axle-busting” and “huge craters.” It was a fivefold increase from 2012.
One motorist had to be towed out of potholes at Grand Avenue and S. Victoria Street; another reported a rift 8 feet long at Old Kellogg Boulevard and Summit Avenue.
In Minneapolis one morning last month, a crew of three street workers labored in the West Phillips neighborhood to make “cold patches” — quick, temporary repairs done in colder weather by filling holes with asphalt until more permanent repairs can be made later.
The workers often filled the holes in seconds, sweeping and knocking out ice and pebbles, shoveling one or two scoops of asphalt into the hole, smoothing them over and riding on to the next one. Crew member Mike Flaherty said they take a sheet of 311 reports and manually mark the ones they have done before turning them in.
Looking at the latest pothole, he joked: “I love every one of them.”
The number of requests to fill potholes jumped from 1,084 in 2012, a particularly mild winter, to 3,700 last year, and the average time it took the city to resolve those complaints doubled to 22 days.
In the southwest part of the city and in neighborhoods near Lake Nokomis, Minneapolis reported taking an average of 16 days to address 5,042 requests to fix potholes.
Judith Layer, who lives in the Linden Hills neighborhood, said that repair crews fixed three potholes she reported to 311 within a week last year and that the area receives “really great service.” Neighbors are “very involved … they are invested,” Layer said.
Minneapolis urges citizens to report potholes to 311 online, telling them to fill out a form — “and the city will address your concern.” Don Stickney, the city’s 311 director, touted the 311 system in an article in Governing magazine last month, saying that it feeds data to department heads and elected officials about what’s going on.
Still, Kennedy said, “We are not complaint driven. We are complaint responsive. We take care of the worst first.”
Quickest rate? Windom
Nearly every neighborhood south of Lake Street had better-than-average times to address pothole requests, while in neighborhoods in the city’s northeast and near north sections, citizens logged far fewer complaints and repairs took 27 and 28 days, respectively. It also took nearly a month in the North Loop and Downtown West neighborhoods.
Records show that it took a week to report closing a pothole request in Windom in the southwestern part of the city, compared with five weeks in the Harrison neighborhood on the North Side.
Yet differences did not always correlate with income. It took 20 days on average to resolve pothole complaints in the University, Powderhorn and Longfellow communities — all of which have lower median incomes than the Calhoun-Isles region, where it took 23. Powderhorn experienced faster times than similar low-income regions but also called in 2,204 complaints — far more than most other parts of the city. The Phillips area, which has the city’s lowest median income, also registered the fewest pothole complaints and had a lower-than-average time for pothole complaints to be resolved: 25 days.
The city fielded another 650 requests to fix potholes in the first 10 weeks of this year, nearly triple what it received for the same period in 2013.
Many roads in disrepair never show up in city records, because residents don’t complain about them — like Michelle Moses, whose drive to work in northeast Minneapolis is covered with potholes so jarring that they knocked her wheels out of alignment.
“I just figured the city would know about them,” she said.