FAIRBANKS — Interior Alaska has endured one of its rainiest Junes, and that has opened a plethora of potholes in Fairbanks.
State and city road crews are working overtime to patch them, but have had a difficult time keeping up because anywhere from 3 to 6 inches of rain has fallen in the past week.
A three-man crew can patch anywhere from 100 to 200 potholes a day, depending on the size of the potholes, said Dan Schacher, maintenance superintendent for the Department of Transportation in Fairbanks. When things are as bad as they have been lately, crews don’t spend much time repairing the small ones, he said.
“They’re hitting the big stuff — stuff that’s going to cause damage — and moving on,” Schacher said. “Then they’ll go back and address the smaller stuff when the emergency is over.”
Potholes form when cracks in the pavement allow water to penetrate the asphalt and saturate the surface underneath. Once the subsurface material is saturated, it’s only a matter of time before the asphalt begins to break up from vehicles driving over it.
“You can bend and flex it back and forth a number of times but eventually it becomes fatigued and breaks,” said Jason Sakalaskas, maintenance and operations engineer with the Fairbanks DOT
Older asphalt is more prone to breaking up than newer asphalt because it has more cracks. Most of the streets in residential subdivisions around Fairbanks were built with a surplus of oil money in the mid-1970s, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.
Moreover, a lot of the older residential subdivisions have roads covered in chipseal, a poor man’s asphalt more prone to potholes.
Though potholes are generally a source of frustration, city labor foreman Sean Rice said some residents have asked crews to not fix the ones outside their homes.
“Some people ask us if we can leave some of the big ones because it slows traffic down,” Rice said as he raked hot asphalt into potholes on Eighth Avenue.