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Wichita sees triple the potholes this year

Wichita's freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw weather is busting up blacktop and taking its toll on city streets.

Public works officials are accustomed to pothole complaints this time of year.

But they're getting more pothole reports than usual.

Last year, the city filled about 4,000 potholes between Jan. 1 and Feb. 24.

This year: 13,000.

That's because of several significant snowfalls and plenty of days where snow melts enough to seep into cracks only to later expand as it freezes and pop open new potholes.

"This year has really been kind of a weird year," said Don Cradduck, the city's street maintenance supervisor. "The temps have been so off the wall."

Potholes are usually filled with a temporary asphalt mix. It costs roughly $6 per pothole.

The city fills about 50,000 potholes a year.

The city added a crack-sealing team in 2005 to cut down on areas where water can seep into the pavement.

But as the city grows and streets age, it gets harder to keep up.

Here's a look at pothole patching estimates though the years as reported in city budget documents:

1998: 39,103

1999: 40,000

2000: 46,304

2001: 68,814

2002: 41,879

2003: 53,217

2004: 69,240

2005: 52,976

The city stopped tracking potholes in its budget in subsequent years, but projected 50,000 per year.

Snowfalls have also led to overtime for snow removal crews, but the city still has plenty of brine that it spreads on streets to prevent icing, Cradduck said.

The workload leads to more expenses, Public Works Director Chris Carrier said.

"But, I think we have been relatively successful in managing the overtime so it won't have as big of a budget impact as it could have," he said in an e-mail. "The bottom line is that snow removal is considered a public safety function and will get funded so we can do what we need to do. We just have to make up for any overruns somewhere else in the budget."

The city tries to fill potholes within about 24 hours, and it routinely seals cracks in roads.

To report a pothole, request street maintenance or ask other questions about the upkeep of your road, call 316-268-4060.

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