Bump. Bumpity bump, bump, bump.
Local governments are working to fill more potholes than usual after the region’s long and severe winter.
During the first three months of this year alone, Bothell’s street crews have made 396 pothole repairs. That’s more than all of 2015. But it’s on par with the large amount of potholes the city saw after the 2009-10 cold snaps.
“With so many freeze-thaw events, as well as the wettest year on record, we are not surprised at the amount of damage we are seeing out on our streets,” said Nik Stroup, public works superintendent for Bothell.
Gov. Jay Inslee earlier declared a state of emergency for 28 counties, including Snohomish County, in response to the impacts of a string of winter storms and severe weather.
Damage to roads is estimated at more than $10 million statewide.
In Sultan, garbage truck workers are keeping an eye out and reporting more pothole issues than usual back to City Hall, said Mick Matheson, public works director.
Like other cities, Sultan aims to fix potholes as workers come across them, using a cold-patch temporary fix in wet and wintry conditions, and longer-lasting hot-mix asphalt in drier conditions.
Small towns like Sultan will be able to tap a one-time emergency pot of funds from the Washington Transportation Improvement Board to help pay for the repairs.
The TIB had several project bids come in under expectations, giving it $5 million extra in its budget. Small towns will be able to apply for up to $50,000 in help.
For the state agency, it’s about protecting earlier investments.
“We’ve invested literally millions of dollars in helping cities maintain their city streets,” said Ashley Probart, executive director. “We’re excited to help. We understand the need will outstrip our resources, but it’s an opportunity to help our communities.”
Applications were expected to open Friday and can be submitted through May 31. Snohomish County cities that are eligible to apply are Brier, Darrington, Gold Bar, Granite Falls, Index, Monroe, Snohomish, Stanwood, Sultan and Woodway.
“Trust me, we’re already getting calls,” Probart said.
The grant is aimed at emergency repairs. Normal road work projects can wait until the regular fall application period, he added.
Government workers typically fill potholes as they find them. But there’s a lot of roadway out there.
Marysville has set up a special pothole reporting form on its website.
The city maintains 429.5 lane miles of roadway. “With such a large area to care for, city workers don’t see all parts of the city every day. That’s why we need your help,” city spokeswoman Connie Mennie said in a news release.
Snohomish County has set up a special pothole webpage with details on why potholes form and how to report them for unincorporated areas.
Not all areas are seeing as large a spike in pothole problems.
“We have an active program that seeks to keep the asphalt in such good condition that potholes don’t get much of a chance to form or at least to get disruptive,” said Kathleen Baxter, a spokeswoman for Everett.
Even in Everett, the rate of pothole repairs is higher this year compared to a year ago.
But the city’s experience points to another factor besides freezing weather in the pothole problem: the lingering effects of the Great Recession.
“I don’t know if we are seeing more of a pothole issue this year or not and directly due to the long winter, but with increased traffic in the area and aging roads potholes always continue to develop,” said Kevin Hushagen, public works director in Stanwood.
Cities across the state reduced their road repair budgets during the economic downturn.
“In doing so, we have noticed the amount of potholes needing repair has increased significantly over the last decade,” said Stroup, the Bothell superintendent.
Between those long-term delays in road repairs and the freezing weather, Bothell saw the number of pothole repairs jump from 375 in 2015 to 1,556 in 2016. Most of the 2016 repairs came at the end of the year.
Bothell voters in November passed a Safe Streets and Sidewalks levy. With those dollars in hand, the city is launching a nine-year effort to reduce its road maintenance backlog.
Melissa Slager: firstname.lastname@example.org, 425-339-3432.
Report a pothole
In general, residents can report a pothole to their local City Hall or Public Works department. Some cities have online forms or special request lines.
Everett: 425-257-8821 (24-hour dispatch number)
Mill Creek: www.cityofmillcreek.com/requesttracker.aspx
Mountlake Terrace: tinyurl.com/MLTRequest