PLAYING WHACK-A-HOLE

City of Omaha crews are hitting chuckholes hard, but not in the way drivers do.

The workers are patching the concrete chasms and asphalt abysses that have been opening in city streets as snow and ice recede.

"We're fixing them as fast as we can," said Austin Rowser, city street maintenance supervisor.

The city is deploying crews on two shifts per day, with nine workers on each shift.

They're focusing on fixing major streets first. Supervisors are cruising main routes, looking for trouble spots and dispatching crews to make repairs.

The crews also are responding to reports of chuckholes in the city's thoroughfares.

And they've been making incursions into neighborhoods to fill the worst chuckholes called in by alert citizens.

"We're fixing them as fast as we can."— Austin Rowser, Omaha street maintenance supervisor

Asked where in the city the crews have been working, Rowser replied, "All over."

The chuckholes, he said, are multiplying like rabbits.

The city took 394 complaints in the first 7 1/2 days of February.

So far, workers have been making cold patches — a quick fix the city uses when temperatures are low.

But they hope to start using hot asphalt next week, if it's warmer, as predicted, and the streets aren't as watery and icy.

The city has asked an asphalt plant, normally shut down in winter, to open next week, Rowser said. The city has to pay a $4,000 startup fee to the plant, but hot asphalt renders better repairs that endure longer than their cold cousins.

"We feel like it's worth it," Rowser said. "We've got some conditions next week that are going to be good for patching."

The chuckholes are not a problem exclusive to Omaha.

Lincoln Mayor Chris Beutler's office issued a press release saying the capital city on Monday had "tripled the usual number of crews working on pothole repair." It said the Public Works and Utilities Department had transferred staff from other maintenance duties to chuckhole repair, bringing the number of assigned workers to about 35.

Contact the writer: christopher.burbach@owh.com 402-444-1057, twitter.com/chrisburbach

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