by Pete Mazzaccaro

I nearly lost my car in January driving westbound on Market Street near 4th.

At least that’s what it felt like when a pothole swallowed my passenger-side left front wheel. I’m pretty sure the bottom of my small hatchback hit the pavement in a smashingly loud “bang.” It was a miracle that I didn’t immediately get a flat tire. My wheel, though, needed to be replaced.

Potholes are a constant menace, and perhaps this year is a record setter. As columnist Jay A. McCalla pointed out on this page last week; he isn’t sure he’s ever seen so many.

Locally, we have potholes in the usual places: The separation of concrete and Belgian blocks near trolley tracks on Germantown Avenue, the ever-crater-filled intersection of E. Mermaid Lane and Winston Road, the moonscape that is Cresheim Valley Drive from Stenton all the way until it transforms to Emlen Street at Allens Lane.

In the Northwest region, I’ve encountered other really bad spots – Ogopntz Avenue between La Salle University and Cheltenham Avenue is treacherous. Lincoln Drive at Kelly has been a constant danger. The city isn’t the only problem. I saw a pothole on Bethlehem Pike just East of Stenton Avenue in Springfield Township that might have effectively taken out a tractor trailer.

Like Jay, I have a hard time remembering the last time I saw so many potholes in and around the city. The issue is most certainly the unique weather we’ve had the last two months. There’s been a lot of rain to penetrate cracks in road surfaces and lots of nights that freeze that water, cause it to expand, busting up the asphalt’s surface.

According to the website of the city’s Streets Department, the city has filled 21,366 potholes since Jan. 1 this year. That’s a lot of potholes. And given weather reports as I write this piece – with expectations of yet another winter storm on Wednesday, the problem is likely to intensify. Mayor Jim Kenney posted to twitter that “it’s been a particularly tough year” for potholes and said he was working with City Council to secure $170 million to get city streets “up to national standards.”

Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done to ease the pothole problem. The only way to prevent potholes is to seal cracks before water gets in. Those treatments are not likely to be time or cost effective for a city that doesn’t have a lot of extra money lying around. Though it might be worth considering what preventative measures might cost against the high price of repairing tens of thousands of potholes every winter.

Until we have a better way to treat roads against potholes, drivers will just have to keep reporting them to the city. Potholes can be reported by calling 311 or by visiting the Streets Dept.’s website.

In the meantime, drive slowly and watch out for those potholes. Replacing a wheel or a tire is no fun.

Pete Mazzaccaro

  • Diana McGregor

    Hopefully they repair the Belgian blocks instead of just dumping asphalt in them. It seems like that’s been what they are doing. 🙁