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KCMO Public Works prepares for early pothole season

Massive pothole
Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 22, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-22 19:44:39-05

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City's Public Works department received 2,100 pothole complaints on Feb. 21-22, 2019, alone and the city's struggles to fix the road craters created stress and irritation for thousands of drivers.

Two years later, city officials said Monday they're in pretty good shape as pothole season arrives again.

"We have a total of about 422 open pothole cases in 311 right now," Maggie Green, a spokesperson for Public Works, said. "That's what crews will be focusing on this week, hoping to get ahead of the requests that will come in with all the winter weather we've just had."

During the 2020 fiscal year from May 2019 to April 2020, KCMO crews filled 87,176 potholes, 22% more than were reported to the city's 311 hotline for services and onformation.

Crews fell so far behind in 2020, the city approved overtime to get potholes filled in a timely manner.

During the 2021 fiscal year, which started on May 1, 2020, KCMO already has filled about 43,000 potholes.

"We've got about 16 vehicles, pothole trucks, out and about," Green said. "That's about 60 employees equipped to do pothole duty for the next few months. We do feel better equipped, better staffed, ready to go for pothole season."

The city is also contracting with private companies, which will add six more crews on the streets.

With winter weather likely to return in the coming weeks, crews only can use a cold asphalt mix right now, which is a temporary solution until warmer weather allows for a more permanent fix.

Public Works hopes to boost its street-resurfacing budget with $20 million more per year for the next five years in the 2021-2022 budget.

"It's been kind of the same story for years now," Melissa Black, whose serves as communications manager for the Missouri Department of Transportation's Kansas City District, said. "We haven't had an increase in funding for the state transportation department since the (1990s)."

Crews across Missouri filled 760,000 potholes last year at a cost of $18 million. The state usually spends $15 to $20 million on potholes every year, but MoDOT says this year might cost more due to the extreme weather.

Finding the extra money amid statewide budget issues is the problem.

"We have 34,000 state highway miles — which is more than Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska combined — and yet we have 17 cents for fuel tax, which is less than any other surrounding state," Black said. "That's where the majority of our funds come from."

MoDOT said they will have about 300 pothole-patching crews statewide working to make roadways safer.

Potholes form when moisture from rain or snow gets into cracks in the pavement. When that moisture freezes, it expands and causes the pavement to bend, crack and bulge.

As the ice thaws, the pavement contracts, exposing gaps in the surface under the pavement, which get worse as traffic drives over the pavement and sometimes breaks chunks loose to form a pothole.

KCMO encourages people to continue reporting potholes to 311.

To report a pothole to MoDOT, call the 24/7 Customer Service Center at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (888-275-6636) or use the Report a Road Concern form online.

Potholes on city streets or in subdivisions should be reported to local city or county authorities for maintenance.