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Why Kansas City's Summer Drivers Are Still Swerving Around Winter Potholes

KCMO Public Works
Kansas City, Missouri, Public Works crews filled more than 16,200 potholes in May alone.

A cold, snowy winter left Kansas City roadways riddled with potholes. Now, historic amounts of rain have delayed public works crews' ability to fix them.

Some city departments, such as those in Overland Park, Kansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, are sending crews out on rainy days to try to patch them. Other municipalities don’t even bother.

“If it’s raining all day, crews aren’t going to be able to get out and patch potholes,” said Dave Reno, the Public Works community engagement officer for the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas, and Wyandotte County.

“We’re getting caught up based on the rain days that we’ve had, so for now, we’re just going to keep out in force working on potholes until they’re all finished.”

Despite rain delays, public works departments have filled thousands of potholes.

Kansas City, Missouri, filled more than 16,200 in May alone. Kansas City, Kansas, took care of more than 3,200 from mid-May to mid-June. Overland Park has filled about 4,200 potholes so far this year, while Shawnee has fixed approximately 1,000.

The number of reports filed by residents has also risen. Overland Park Public Works street maintenance supervisor Cathy Wilson said that from January to April last year, they received 200 pothole reports. In the same time frame this year they received approximately 570 requests for service.

Public works departments are also using more resources than usual; Reno said Kansas City, Kansas, has used 1,130 tons of asphalt since January, 73 percent more than at this time last year.

Maggie Green, the public information officer for the Public Works Department in Kansas City, Missouri, said during the week of June 16, crews filled 1,976 potholes with 91 tons of asphalt, which is typical so far this year. Since December, crews have filled more than 70,000 potholes across the city.

She said the rainwater itself poses an additional problem because it seeps into the cracks of pavement and causes it to “buckle.”

Steven Bialek, streets coordinator for the City of Shawnee Public Works, agreed, adding that the rain has been just as much of a problem as the snow in winter. He said following rainy days, his office receives “a pretty good list” of new potholes or previously fixed ones that have reopened.

“You get a hole patched and the water gets inside there and ends up popping the asphalt back out,” Bialek said. “So those are the ones where, like on Shawnee Mission Parkway or a street like that, where you’re kind of going out over and over again until you get some dry weather and be able to go out there and do a permanent fix.”

Christina Elias is an intern at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her at christinae@kcur.org or on Twitter @eliaschristina4.

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