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Posted on: May 9, 2018

It's pothole season - again

The calendar says it’s spring, which means it’s pothole season.

And in Minot, that means City of Minot Street Superintendent Kevin Braaten and the crews in his department are hard at work fixing the damage done to city streets over the winter months.

Temporary repair methods are used in early spring. Permanent repairs to potholes will be made when local asphalt plants open for the year, usually in the first couple weeks of May. Once the plants are open, crews will use a hot asphalt mix to make permanent repairs.

“Water is the No. 1 enemy, along with high volumes of traffic. Water encroaches into the pavement through cracks and soaks into the gravel below. Then that water freezes and expands, and when it melts it leaves a void. That’s how potholes are formed,” Braaten explained.

Thanks a lot, Mother Nature.

“Potholes are in every city. If you have paved streets, you have potholes,” Braaten said. “We’re very aware of them, and we appreciate when the public lets us know when they see them. Potholes aren’t new. We’re used to dealing with them, just like every other city.”

“Dealing with them” is a constant job for Braaten’s crews, and there’s no high tech, fancy solution to fixing potholes. Instead, it’s good, old-fashioned hard work.

“The crews will get rid of all the debris in the hole and clean it out as well as they can. Then they’ll fill the void with Omegamix, which is a temporary cold mix product,” Braaten said. “The mixture is then tamped down, and they’ll also use the truck wheels to pack the mix into the void. They’ll leave the patch a little higher than the street to allow the Omegamix to be packed down into the void by traffic.”

As a temporary fix, Omegamix works great in dry conditions, Braaten said. But North Dakota often enjoys nearly perfect pothole weather, with plenty of moisture and temperatures that vary widely, sometimes on a daily basis. All of which means just because a pothole is temporarily fixed in April or May doesn’t guarantee it won’t soon become an issue again before it can be permanently repaired with hot mix asphalt.

Minot dedicates two trucks, both with two-man crews, to pothole repair work. The crews routinely begin work as early at 5 a.m. to avoid traffic.

At mid-morning on a late April day, a two-man crew worked on repairing a pothole on Burdick Expressway East, near Medical Arts. It’s a common location for the crew, with a particular pothole there being repaired numerous times in the past couple years. After setting up bright orange traffic cones around their truck that has flashing lights on top, and while cars whizzed by with drivers talking on their cell phone, applying makeup, or otherwise distracted, the two men quickly filled the familiar pothole with shovelfuls of Omegamix. They packed the mixture into the hole before cleaning up any loose materials they may have left on the street, picked up the orange traffic cones and were on their way to the next location.

“We try to do our work on busy streets, like Burdick and Broadway, early in the morning when we start our shifts at 5 a.m.,” Braaten said. “We’d prefer to wait to work on those streets until low volume traffic times, but that’s hard to do. Safety is a high priority for us, both for our crew members and for the driving public.”

The nearby intersection of Burdick Expressway and Third Street Southeast near the Ward County Courthouse is a location that seems to be in constant need of pothole work, Braaten said.

“It’s at the bottom of a hill where there is almost always heavy runoff, and it’s an intersection of two very busy roadways,” he said. “We fix potholes there all the time. It’s such a busy intersection, so it’s very difficult to block traffic when we need to work. So that’s somewhere we’ll try to work overnight or really early in the morning before traffic gets too busy. Again, we need to look out for the safety of our crews and the public.”

Braaten is appreciative when the public and other City department crews alert his office to pothole locations.

“The City has a lot of eyes on our roads every day, between the police department, water department, street department and others, so we have a lot of communication,” he said. “We certainly thank the public for helping us identity potholes, too. The public is a great resource for us.”

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