Houston Matters

What Does it Take to Fix a Pothole — And Why Does Houston Have So Many?

Recently, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the official launch of his pothole repair initiative. Potholes reported to 311 are to be “assessed and addressed” by the next business day. We have, on this program, explored the political and judicial battles over street maintenance in Houston. During the campaign for mayor, potholes and street repairs were […]

Mayor Sylvester Turner holds up a chart showing the number of potholes the city has fixed since his inauguration. Photo: Florian Martin, Houston Public Media.
Mayor Sylvester Turner holds up a chart showing the number of potholes the city has fixed since his inauguration. Photo: Florian Martin, Houston Public Media.

Recently, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner announced the official launch of his pothole repair initiative. Potholes reported to 311 are to be “assessed and addressed” by the next business day.

We have, on this program, explored the political and judicial battles over street maintenance in Houston. During the campaign for mayor, potholes and street repairs were a routine topic of discussion. When Mayor Turner’s predecessor Annise Parker appeared on this show your fellow listeners routinely called raising concerns over potholes, street repairs, and the ReBuild Houston program.

But there are questions we haven’t had a chance to ask before – much less political, and much more practical questions — like just what are those materials that road maintenance workers use to fill potholes? How long do those patching materials last? What’s the difference in cost and time and effectiveness in patching a pothole versus rebuilding a street? How do you determine the best approach to take in addressing one pothole to the next? And is there anything special about Houston itself that leads to more potholes here than in most cities?

Today, we discuss the nitty-gritty of pothole repairs with David Newcomb, a senior research engineer with the pavement and materials division at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.

POTHOLE REPAIR BY THE NUMBERS:

How much does it cost to do a temporary filling of a pothole (using the cold-placed material)?
The City of Houston fills potholes in several ways (as appropriate for the particular pothole, size, distressed condition, etc.):
– Responsive with cold mix: $31.50 per patch (average)
– Responsive with hot mix: $370.00 per patch (average) – $100 to $500 range
– Proactively with the Pothole Patcher: $12.75 per patch (average)

How much does it cost to dig down to the root cause of the pothole and refill, topping off with hot asphalt?
– With a full-depth repair, it is handled by contract at an average cost of $7,000 per patch

How much does it cost to completely resurface a portion of a street (depending on how much of the street needs to be resurfaced)?
– Average to mill, overlay, minor base repair: approximately $85,000 per lane mile

What’s the average shelf-life for each type of street repair, typically (this would mean for a temporary refill, a more permanent solution and then a full street resurface)?
– Varies from 3 months to 7+ years depending on the type of repair, weather, location, traffic, etc.

*Source: Alvin Wright, City of Houston Public Works & Engineering Department

MORE:
Houston Pothole Website
Houston Mayor: City Already Fixing 96 Percent Of Potholes Reported (News 88.7, Jan. 13, 2016)
In Inaugural Speech, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner Lays Out Plans To Fix Roads, Finances (News 88.7, Jan. 4, 2016)

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