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Greenfield sees rough road ahead due to winter weather

City absorbs impact while planning spring fixes

Feb. 4, 2014

Greenfield — Come spring, the city will see exactly how harsh of a winter it was when a plethora of potholes appears, Greenfield officials say.

"The winter has done a number on our streets," said Richard Sokol, director of neighborhood services. "The freeze-thaw cycle has done significant damage."

Sokol hopes the roads that have buckled at the joints will even out without a lot of cracking when it finally warms up. Drivers have undoubtedly noticed the clunking as they drive some streets as water got under the pavement and froze in bitterly cold temperatures, he said.

Hole in road plans

Even newer roads haven't been immune, said Dan Ewert, public works director. Roads that shouldn't crack for years are doing so anyway and will have to be sealed.

Fortunately some extra money has been found to fix those potholes and cracks, Sokol said. Construction bids for this year's batch of road rehabilitation and reconstruction projects are coming in 20 percent below estimates. The savings can be put toward repairs.

The money will also be used this year to resurface two streets — 116th Street between Interstate 894 and Edgerton Avenue and 60th Street between Layton and Edgerton avenues — that officials thought could last a while longer until this winter's rigors proved otherwise, Sokol said.

Drivers also may have noticed that manholes seem to have sunk as they bounced over them. But the manholes have actually remained stationary while the roads have heaved upward because of the freezing water, he said.

Severe temperatures also have popped more water mains than usual, he said.

Salty answers

Potholes and bumpy roads aren't the only upshot of this bitterly cold and snowy winter. Plow drivers are being extra careful to help make salt supplies last, Ewert said.

Instead of salting after the second plowing pass, the salt isn't applied until the area is completely cleared, "so there's no chance of them plowing the salt off with the snow," Ewert said.

Crews have done that before — in the winters of 2010-11 and the near record-setting snow winter of 2007-08, he said. Their caution is well-founded. In December, the city used as much salt as it did during that snowy season six years ago, Ewert said.

While the amount of snow this season is less than 2007-08, it has been just as constant, he said. During the first 28 days of January, plows were out 20 days either salting or plowing. Ewert can remember only a couple of other winters where the snow was so continuous.

"These half-inch to three-inch snowfalls cost us as much or more than a 10-inch drop," he said, explaining that the same amount of salt is used in either case.

While the current salt supply is deemed adequate for now, the city has a fall-back of 950 tons of salt it owns and stores at Jones Island if supplies get too low, Ewert said.

Plowed up

As the salt goes down, overtime has gone up for plow drivers. Ewert hasn't totaled up the overtime hours, but knows that a lot of plowing has had to be done after hours.

But if winter lets up a little, the budget might still even out, he added.

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