By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

Broken wheel? File a claim

Drivers who believe their car has been damaged as a result of the city’s negligence can contact Brenda Mingus at 541-693-2129. Claimants fill out a one-page form, and should provide photographs, receipts and other documentation of damage.

Potholes are blossoming across Bend, creating a rough ride for drivers and in some cases inflicting costly damage on their vehicles.

David Abbas, the city’s streets director, said it’s been a challenging winter for his department, but crews are doing what they can to chase down potholes as they emerge. From Oct. 1 to midday Tuesday, crews had patched 589 potholes, he said — though in some cases, the same pothole has been patched multiple times.

The asphalt used for wintertime pothole-patching is not as effective as what road crews use during the warmer months of the year, Abbas said.

Starting in early spring, asphalt plants begin producing “hot mix,” Abbas said, the asphalt formulation used for resurfacing roads or building new roads. In winter, however, the plants are idle and crews use “cold mix,” he said, a more pliable form of asphalt that won’t harden while being transported from pothole to pothole, but doesn’t adhere to the road quite as well.

“It’s unfortunately not a long-term repair,” Abbas said. “If a street’s degraded, it’s kind of a Band-Aid.”

Abbas said there’s been an abundance of potholes along Shevlin Park Road, and at the roundabout where Shevlin Park Road meets Mount Washington Drive. The roundabout where Colorado Avenue and Century Drive meet has also been a problem, he said, as have Colorado Avenue and Century Drive themselves.

Roundabouts are particularly vulnerable to potholes, Abbas said, as the sideways friction created by turning vehicles accelerates the degradation of the asphalt.

The city has fallen behind in its street maintenance efforts over the last 10 years or so, Abbas said, accelerating the formation of cracks that allow water into the road. Once water works its way into the road, a cycle of freezing and thawing loosens the asphalt and allows potholes to form, he said.

Sealing minor cracks in the roadway and regularly grinding up old asphalt and laying down a new surface — the goal of the 5-cent per-gallon gas tax voters will consider in March — can help keep potholes at bay, Abbas said.

“If there’s not that good, strong street preservation program, then each year gets worse and worse,” he said.

One bright spot for the city’s street crews has been the use of concrete on a number of recently completed roundabouts and two major road projects, the Reed Market Road rebuild and the Murphy Road extension.

Abbas said although concrete is not the ideal material for all roads, it’s a much more durable material than asphalt, and the newly constructed streets and roundabouts should last 30 to 40 years with minimal maintenance.

Mike Wing, owner of Alignment Techniques in Bend, said he saw about 10 customers in his shop last month who had damaged their cars by driving into potholes, though drivers striking curbs while sliding on icy roundabouts have been far more common this winter.

Wing said he suspects the city is not as quick to patch potholes as it was in prior years, and that potholes are emerging faster than in the past. He said earlier this winter, his son broke a wheel when he struck a pothole near Costco, in a spot where there had been no pothole just two days earlier.

Low-profile tires, where the driving surface of the tire is only an inch or two below the rim, are a common factor in pothole-related vehicle damage. Wing said where a larger tire will often absorb much of the impact of a pothole strike, a low-profile tire transfers much of the energy to a vehicle’s suspension and steering system.

Wing said he advised drivers to move a little closer to the center line when driving during pothole season, and more importantly, just slow down.

“A lot of these new cars, drivers get over-reliant on all the electronics and are driving faster than they should be,” he said.

Drivers who damage their vehicles striking a pothole on a Bend city street may have some recourse. Brenda Mingus, the city’s risk manager, said drivers can file a claim with the city, which is investigated by the city’s insurance carrier.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

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