Winter weather leaves potholes in its wake

Crews from Clark County, Vancouver, other cities keeping busy with road repairs

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Call these numbers for repairs:

Vancouver: 360-487-8177.

Battle Ground: 360-342-5350.

Camas: 360-817-1563.

Washougal: 360-835-2662.

Unincorporated Clark County: 360-397-2446.

Washington Department of Transportation (state highways and interstates in Clark County): 360-905-2000.

Call these numbers for repairs:

Vancouver: 360-487-8177.

Battle Ground: 360-342-5350.

Camas: 360-817-1563.

Washougal: 360-835-2662.

Unincorporated Clark County: 360-397-2446.

Washington Department of Transportation (state highways and interstates in Clark County): 360-905-2000.

While Clark County hasn’t experienced the extreme winter weather seen in the Midwest and the East, our relatively harsh freeze-thaw cycle has put additional stress on roads, and local public works crews are busy filling potholes.

Ryan Miles, a manager in the city of Vancouver’s public works department, said 628 potholes were filled between February 10 and March 12, up from 337 potholes filled during that time period last year.

“It is not unusual to experience an increase in potholes after a snow and ice event like we had in February,” Miles said. “Water that gets into the cracks freezes and expands, which puts pressure on the pavement from underneath and causes areas that are already weak to pop.”

When Vancouver experiences multiple days of freezing and thawing, the problem becomes that much greater and more widespread, because there is more time for these pressures to work on the weak pavement, he said. The best way to combat potholes is to keep the roads in good condition and sealed, so water stays out of the pavement structure, he said.

Vancouver Public Works has one budget for street maintenance annual operations, and that covers both snow/ice events and filling potholes, he said.

Since major snow and ice events are safety issues, the city keeps its highest priority routes plowed and de-iced.

Since potholes are also a potential safety issue, the city responds quickly, after either receiving a call from a resident or after an employee spots one. Money spent on plowing, de-icing and filling potholes means the city will have less money to spend on maintenance paving this year, said Miles, who serves as operations streets superintendent and pavement manager.

At the Clark County Public Works Department, employees have also been working to fill the roadway hazards. The county fielded 21 complaints about potholes between Feb. 10 and March 12, said Jeff Mize, spokesman for the county’s public works department.

In spite of the extra wear and tear, the county has spent roughly the same on pothole repair as it has in past years. From Jan. 1 through March 12, Clark County’s public works department spent $50,800 on filling potholes, compared to $47,700 spent during the same period last year.

“We’re kind of in the ballpark based on the past four years,” Mize said.

The hardest-hit roads this year are in rural areas. Northeast Sunset Falls Road, running east-west between Moulton Falls Park to the Skamania County border, remains under weight restrictions, as portions of the road have practically disintegrated. It was already in bad shape before the winter freeze, which placed additional stress on it.

The county expects to use a $2 million federal grant to repair the road and its guardrail, but that’s not scheduled to happen until 2016, Mize said.

In Battle Ground, Public Works Director Scott Sawyer estimated as many as 80 potholes have been filled since mid-February. That’s about half the potholes the city filled in the same time frame after the big storm of 2008, but Sawyer said employees are spotting more damage than usual on the city’s roads.

The department has spent more than $3,300 on the materials and labor needed to fix the damage, he said. Every Monday, the department sends workers out to scan the streets for potholes, and Sawyer estimates the city gets about five service requests a week from residents.

Along Northwest Sixth Avenue into downtown Camas, the lingering damage from recent winter freezes is impossible to miss. The city has identified 91 problem spots on a bumpy 14,000-square-foot stretch of that roadway heading to Northeast Adams Street, said Camas Public Works Director Eric Levison.

On Monday, the Camas City Council awarded a $66,366 contract for the project to Granite Construction of Vancouver.

In Washougal, Public Works Director Trevor Evers said he’s noticed more potholes than usual this year.

“It’s definitely enhanced, especially with the freezing weather and freezing rain,” Evers said.

Public Works employees scour the city every Friday to search for streets in need of repair. Since Feb. 6, staffers have used about 2 tons of pothole patch mix to fill 187 potholes, Evers said.

The Washington State Department of Transportation, responsible for interstates and state highways that run through the county, has spent $7,245 patching potholes in Clark County since Feb. 1.


Tyler Graf and Justin Runquist contributed to this story.