After weeks of dodging potholes along 168th Street in southwest Omaha, a couple of drivers took it upon themselves to warn people.
“POTHOLE MINEFIELD AHEAD” warned a yard sign posted along 168th and Monroe Streets.
Right up the street, a comic burst warned “WHAM!” right next to a bad pothole. “BAM!” the next sign alerted with another burst.
Or across the street, a not-so-colorful sign alerted drivers to a roadside drop-off. “POT HOLE SWING WIDE.”
People who live in the area around 168th Street here are tired of the potholes on a stretch between Y and Harrison Streets north of the county line. They wanted the holes fixed — and the city responded Tuesday after weeks of complaints.
Two crews — a city crew and private contractor — were at work on 168th Street.
Tuesday evening, the signs were gone, but not all of the potholes.
Jeff Eades, who lives in the Mission Park neighborhood west of 168th Street, said he called the city several times to register complaints about the potholes.
“They just kept getting bigger and bigger and deeper and deeper,” Eades said.
Sign up for World-Herald news alerts
Be the first to know when news happens. Get the latest breaking headlines sent straight to your inbox.
Mayor Jean Stothert and Austin Rowser, the city’s street maintenance engineer, said they’re glad people had a sense of humor about the potholes, although both said they don’t find the potholes funny.
The city said 168th Street’s place on the repair schedule was simply a matter of priorities compared with other street sections.
Rowser said that stretch wasn’t a low priority, but its character as a former county road, fully paved in asphalt, affected the scheduling. Other concrete sections, he said, got higher priority because the potholes might stretch across a full lane width and have potential to cause more damage. But 168th Street had potholes more along the edge of the street, he said.
Stothert said she drives that stretch twice a week, too. Those types of bad areas are “all over the city,” Stothert said, but she added that the city is trying its best to catch up.
On 168th Street, the holes have lined up one after the other. Some have been regular potholes where a car’s wheels should go. In other parts, the roadside eroded and dug into the street. One particularly bad spot has eaten farther into the lane of traffic.
“It’s not really even a pothole,” said Sunny Phillips, whose home backs onto 168th Street. “It’s just — the road is gone.”
Kyle Loftis, who lives in Sarpy County and says he drives that section numerous times each day, took credit for the signs in an Instagram post, calling it “throwback Batman humor” to help save people’s tires from the same Omaha potholes that cost him a tire. He says he posted two other signs that were later taken down.
Loftis, in an email, said he had to spend $250 to replace a tire on his Yukon Denali SUV he popped in that section at the end of December. He said the city patched a few holes in January, but that lasted only a couple of weeks. He said he filed a claim for the tire damage, but expects that to be declined.
He said he wanted other drivers to know to swerve around the potholes. “It’s very dangerous trying to avoid the potholes while also not running into oncoming traffic,” he said.
Going back to March 14, people registered 39 complaints along a half-mile stretch of 168th Street, according to the city’s complaint website, omahahotline.com. It’s unclear how many complaints came in before March 14; the city’s hotline website doesn’t allow users to look back any further than that.
“A large chunk on the sides of the street is completely gone,” someone warned on March 15.
“People swerve into oncoming traffic because the EAST SIDE OF THE ROAD IS GONE,” came the report last week.
Then Saturday, “Traffic is crossing the center line in BOTH directions! Very dangerous driving conditions!”
According to Rowser, the city’s average time to fill a pothole after a complaint is eight to 10 days, although he acknowledged some take longer than that. Work on some problem spots, such as 72nd Street and Pacific Street, have taken more than 10 days themselves, he said.
Stothert said the city’s fix on 168th Street will be a Band-Aid for now.
Ultimately, the street needs a permanent fix, Stothert said. In 2020, the city’s capital improvement plan is scheduled to start a construction project to rebuild 168th Street between Pacific and Q Streets. The plan calls for work to carry on from V Street to Harrison Streets, making it a full four-lane divided road.
“We understand that road is bad, but the fix is in here,” Stothert said, pointing to the city’s plan.