Beware of potholes – the damage they cause can be astronomical
Potholes. They’re every driver’s nightmare – sometimes causing people to drive as if they are on an obstacle course.
The biggest cause of potholes, which are worse in late winter, is when there is “water getting into the pavement and freezing and thawing,” Norwich Public Works Director Patrick McLaughlin said during a telephone interview. The professional engineer said potholes do “pop up year round,” though.
“The pavement gets worn and a lot of times it sometimes can start from a crack and the crack will break off and all of a sudden you’ve got a little hole.”
McLaughlin added that Norwich’s city-owned roads “don’t have a tremendous amount of potholes in them. We pretty much patch them as we discover them. We don’t put a crew out on that task every day, but maybe two days a week or so, depending on the weather.”
Good weather helps, he added.
“You want it to be dry when you’re patching a pothole.” However, he said, “If it’s a bad pothole, we’ll try to patch it, even if it’s wet, just to prevent damage to a car.”
It’s important to note numerous roads and bridges in Norwich are managed by the state.
Utilizing mostly bond money, McLaughlin said in an email that the Norwich Public Works Department spends “between approximately $1.5 and $2 million” annually to pave between five and eight of its 162 miles of roads.
“Before we pave we need to coordinate with NPU (Norwich Public Utilities) to ensure they will not be digging up the road anytime soon. This sometimes delays us from paving some roads we would otherwise like to, such as Talman Street.”
Coming in contact with a pothole can be costly for our vehicles. Damage can range from severe alignment problems and tire/wheel damage to bent rims/axles, damaged tie rod ends and bad ball joints, control arms and bushings, said owner Mark Tudisca of Laurel Hill Automotive & Tire in Norwich, who is also a technician. There are “an astronomical amount of issues that potholes can cause, mainly with drivability and safety.”
Costs can range from $80 for an alignment, $120 to $225 or more for a new tire or even thousands for other issues, Tudisca said during a telephone interview. “I’ve got one car here that I am working on right now that the gentleman is looking at about $2,200 worth of repairs. He actually broke the front spring off his Jeep and now he needs a new front end for it.”
Tudisca added that, “A lot of auto manufacturers are having recalls on their control arms” and other parts “because they’re not holding up.”
He was also working on a car that a lady brought in after hitting a pothole. “It broke the rear shock off her car.”
Unlike older cars, manufacturers are using many different alignment specifications on new cars today so “one little thing can throw it off, say the way your car automatically stops itself. You can notice the car swerving or leaning towards one side when you’re driving down the road, a pull on the steering wheel,” Tudisca said. Usually customers come in complaining of a vibration or noise they didn’t hear before, at which point he said he runs a diagnostic test “to figure out why it’s doing what it’s doing.”
Asked if drivers can be compensated for damage caused by potholes on city roads, McLaughlin said, “It’s rare that it’s reimbursable. If it was a pothole that had been there for a very long time, and it had been brought to our attention, then we would be responsible for paying” for the car repair. He said when they hear about pothole complaints, they usually fill them within one day. If it’s a bad pothole, they go look at it “pretty much immediately.”
City or state road?
Trying to figure out if a Norwich road is maintained by the city or state and who to report the pothole to can be challenging at times. If you don’t know, call the Norwich Engineering Administration Office at 860-823-3798 or the Streets and Parks Division at 860-823-3799, McLaughlin said. If the pothole is indeed on a state road, they will pass the information along to the state department of transportation (DOT).
“We try to address potholes as quickly as we can after they are reported,” State DOT Communications Manager Josh Morgan said in an email.
“Regardless of where someone lives or travels in Connecticut, the best way to report a pothole or other issue on a state road is through CTDOT Customer Care Center. They can be reached by phone at 860-594-2560 or by email at DOT.CustomerCare@ct.gov.”
The state’s website, portal.ct.gov/DOT/Common-Elements/V4-Template/Contact-Us, “also has a webform which will allow someone to ‘drop a pin’ on the location of the pothole or other issue and share it directly with CTDOT. It’s important to remember that CTDOT only maintains state roads, such as interstates, parkways, and major roadways. Issues on local roads should be reported directly to the municipality,” Morgan said.
For information about submitting claims “allegedly caused by a defective condition on a state highway” within 90 days of the incident, go to: portal.ct.gov/DOT/General/Claims/Submitting-a-Claim.
Jan Tormay, a longtime Norwich resident, now lives in Westerly.