Patching potholes

As roads freeze and thaw through the winter, they become scarred by potholes.

“We’ve had a lot of freeze and thaw cycles this winter. It’s unfortunate,” Altoona Public Works Director David Diedrich said.

But the city’s engineering department has more money to repave roads this summer than it has in many summers past.

“I’m looking forward to moving in the right direction on the city streets,” Diedrich said.

The city’s engineering department secured $1.1 million to resurface city roads this summer. “We haven’t put down $1.1 million [at one time] in the last 15 years,” Diedrich said.

Last repaving season, the city had only $400,000 for the job.

This year’s funding comes from federal Community Development Block Grants and a capital borrowing program involved with the city’s distressed municipality status, Diedrich said.

Aside from the 22 miles of state routes in the city, there are 181 miles of city roads or 360 miles counting both lanes.

To avoid astronomical costs of rebuilding roads, Diedrich said it is important to maintain a resurfacing schedule that would have all city roads repaved by the end of a 25-year period.

But to achieve that goal, the city needs to pave seven miles of roads per year. That would cost $1.5 million annually.

Diedrich said there is a significant backlog of roads to be paved.

“It’s frustrating when you don’t have the level of funding to get into the 20-year cycle. If you get past that you have to rebuild roads, and you want to keep away from that,” he said. “This year’s repaving funding goes a long way to helping us get to where we need to be.”

For now, the highway garage is patching potholes on streets and alleys with temporary cold patch.

“So far this winter, there’s been quite a bit of snow removal, now that we have a break from that, we are fixing potholes,” Altoona Department of Public Works Highway Superintendent Al Hykes said.

Three road repair crews were out on Thursday, he said.

Logan Township Highway Foreman LaMarr Dively said crews are quickly putting to use the 5 tons of patching material the township ordered for patching potholes this year.

PennDot spokeswoman Tara Callahan-Henry said Blair County crews have had few complaints about potholes on state roads. Cambria and Somerset counties would have more potholes because the weather is more severe there, she said.

“A handful of potholes have been fixed this week,” she said. “It’s a temporary fix. Blacktop repair will begin in the spring.”