WATERLOO — Packed ice melting off the streets is exposing a new menace for motorists.
Pothole season arrived with a vengeance this month as heavy snow cover coupled with temperatures bouncing above and below the freezing point have turned many roadways into minefields.
City street crews, which have had to split time between patching the holes and plowing snow, are putting more emphasis on the potholes this week.
“A lot of it has to do with the freeze-thaw cycle,” said Waterloo Public Works Director Randy Bennett.
“If we don’t get all of the moisture out when we patch them, it freezes and expands and we have to go back again,” he added. “We’ve patched a lot of the holes multiple times.”
Tony Pauley, Street Department operations supervisor, said Waterloo had nine crews out patching potholes Tuesday while four trucks continued to make the rounds plowing snow.
Mayor Quentin Hart said there has been no shortage of concerned calls to his office about the condition of the streets. Both he and Pauley encouraged residents to report potholes through the city’s website or by calling public works at 291-4445.
“We have 924 lane miles, so it’s hard for us to know where all of them are,” Pauley said. “It helps when people call them in.”
Crews from the city’s Waste Management Services Department also were out clearing storm sewer catch basins that have been covered by snow. Catch basin issues can be reported by calling 291-4553.
“Crews were out last week and this week trying to open up a lot of the catch basins that are covered with snow in anticipation of this melting to try to eliminate flooding at intersections,” Bennett said.
Cedar Falls has had pothole patching crews out for the past week and a half.
“This winter was particularly harsh on our streets,” said Brian Heath, public works and parks division manager. “We had a lot of freeze-thaw and a lot of plowing activity. Those plows aren’t easy on the streets.”
While the pothole crews have been using temporary mix so far, Heath is hopeful temperatures will warm up enough by next week to begin using more permanent patching equipment and material.
Unpaved roads in rural Black Hawk County also are suffering from the extreme moisture and freeze-thaw cycle.
“The paved roads are in pretty good condition,” said County Engineer Cathy Nicholas. “The gravel road system is poor in many locations. The roads are very soft.”
Frost boils are showing up on the gravel roads.
“The frost is starting to come out of the ground so the top 4 to 5 inches is very soft,” said Nicholas, noting the county can’t repair the frost boils properly until the roads firm up.
“It does us no good to drive a truck with 15 tons of rock on it and then try to spread that out,” she said. “There’s really not much we can do it about it right now, probably for the next few weeks.”