Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert had a message this week for drivers dodging potholes from Elkhorn to the riverfront.
First, she asked for patience. This week's expected wet weather will probably pop many of the recent pothole patches city crews have made, she said.
Second, she said that help is on the way. Heated asphalt patches that stay in place better than most winter patch jobs are coming sooner than typically happens, she said. Crews will be out doing those repairs as early as Monday.
The city has more road crews getting ready to fill potholes, 31 instead of the usual 22 at the season’s turn. Each crew has three to four people on it, said street maintenance supervisor Austin Rowser.
The number of crews is up in large part because the City Council reconsidered the Stothert administration's proposal to supplement city pothole crews with private contractors. Those nine new contract crews start Monday.
All these efforts have a simple aim: Make the city driveable again.
There's work to do after the snowiest February on record and one of the city's snowiest winters overall — Omaha received more than double its regular amount of snowfall. The city had to use so much salt and ice melt that water seeped into cracks and made things worse, officials said.
“This year is one of the worst pothole seasons we’ve ever had,” Stothert said at a City Hall press conference.
Last week, the Mayor’s Hotline received 1,320 calls reporting potholes, the Mayor’s Office said. The higher number of calls and complicated weather have lengthened the average repair time to about 4½ days, Stothert said.
The city had to close a section of 144th Street from about Millard Avenue to Q Street, one of the first times many could remember the city having to do so. A low-lying section of the road is in such bad shape because of its fly ash concrete base that it will have to be replaced curb to curb, officials say.
The state used to allow that type of concrete to be used, Stothert and her Public Works officials explained. It no longer does. Repairs could cost nearly $1 million, Public Works Director Bob Stubbe said.
Luckily for city taxpayers, much of the road was already scheduled for a major set of repairs and resurfacing. Right now, city crews are trying to find a way to open at least one lane in each direction, Stothert said.
Public Works is putting up signs warning of rough pavement and patching as they can around a pair of other intersections expecting major resurfacing work soon, near 84th and Pacific Streets and 132nd and Center Streets. The city does not expect to have to close either intersection, officials said, but it’s watching for signs of deterioration that might necessitate a move.
The city is spending more on street resurfacing in recent years, from less than $4 million a year in 2006 to more than $18 million last year.
Stothert said Monday in her office that there is little public appetite for raising taxes for spending on roads. She said she plans to continue to invest reasonable, growing amounts in street resurfacing.