Bitter winter wreaks havoc on area roads

PARKERSBURG – Vienna resident Kristy Champion can’t be sure it was a pothole on College Parkway that did in her tire recently.

After all, the riding is rough all over after one of the coldest winters in recent memory and the freezing-and-thawing cycle that has taken its toll on area roads.

But it was the day after she bounced through a broken portion of pavement on College Parkway that she noticed a “bubble” on her front, passenger-side tire.

“It was one of those teeth-rattling potholes where you didn’t see it coming,” Champion said.

She isn’t the only motorist who’s been slowing down, steering around or heading right through pavement that looks like something out of a post-apocalyptic action film in spots this winter. City and state officials say they are well aware of the problems and doing what they can to address trouble zones, but they’re limited when it comes to long-term solutions.

“Right now, the hot mix (asphalt) plants aren’t open,” said Rusty Roten, District 3 engineer for the West Virginia Division of Highways.

That leaves workers using cold mix or bagged mix to patch holes, and “those things are very, very temporary,” he said.

DOH workers on Friday were patching portions of Garfield Avenue, which is one of the areas cited by readers on The Parkersburg News and Sentinel Facebook page as a particular problem spot. Other areas mentioned by readers included Rosemar Road, Ohio Avenue, Murdoch Avenue, Sixth Street, Seventh Street, Grand Central Avenue in Vienna and Highland Avenue in Williamstown.

Carrie Bly, spokeswoman for the West Virginia Department of Transportation, said potholes are giving motorists grief statewide, and the department is looking to get a head-start on repairs. Projects around the state were reviewed, and ones that could be delayed were pushed back to free up around $12 million, including more than $1 million in District 3, which covers Wood, Calhoun, Jackson, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane and Wirt counties.

“We looked at it and basically said, ‘what projects can wait?'” Bly said.

Usually the division is in snow-and-ice-removal mode until the end of March, but Bly said the funding and the workers’ priorities are being shifted to potholes. The state will also be reaching out to asphalt plants to see if they will be able to open earlier to provide some hot mix to the crews.

“The ideal paving temperature is around 50 degrees, but if we can get some consecutive 40-degree days” some work could be done, Bly said. “That would be great if we could get a couple weeks on it when usually we wouldn’t be starting ’til April.”

Roten said District 3 personnel plan to work with the City of Parkersburg to use a piece of equipment called a reclaimer, which melts broken asphalt to its original form and allows it to be reused.

“It may not take care of some of the underlying problems, but it’ll keep you from busting your tire,” Roten said.

Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell said the city purchased the reclaimer during the recession, when there wasn’t money available for paving. It cost $50,000 and has been a good investment, he said.

“It reclaims areas of street completely,” Newell said. “(But) it’s certainly not a replacement for milling and overlay.”

While Garfield, Rosemar and a number of other rough roads are state routes, Newell said the city has its share of potholes to deal with as well.

“Fairview Avenue, we’ve been struggling with it,” he said.

The street was paved fairly recently, but Newell said there is not much base under it, so water seeps up underneath it and freezes and thaws.