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A sure sign of spring in WNY: 'Welcome to Potholeville'

"Welcome to Potholeville," says the sign on a bad stretch of Lakeview Road in Hamburg.

It could be a sign in virtually every Western New York community.

That's because cracks that were just bumps in the road a few weeks ago have opened into craters on city streets, county highways and state byways.

"It is a safety hazard," said Hamburg Highway Superintendent Ted Casey.

Casey said he has had to pull over on the road to get out of the way of oncoming traffic that is trying to avoid potholes in Lakeview Road, which is owned and maintained by Erie County. He's very familiar with the road – the Hamburg Highway Department is on Lakeview.  He not only wants the potholes fixed, he wants the town to take over the road from Erie County – after it is fixed.

And residents have had it, judging from the homemade signs that have appeared at the side of the road.

Erie County has not yet released the list of roads that will be repaved this year, but Lakeview is on the radar, said Charles Sicker, Erie County deputy commissioner of Public Works for the Highway Division.

"We have a whole list of paving candidates, it's very high on our list," Sickler said. "We recognize something needs to be done."

The list is to be released within a couple weeks. He said a lot of county roads "went bad" over the winter, and the county's pothole hotline has received more calls this year than last year. There were 100 calls over one recent weekend, although only 20 percent of those were about county roads, he said. Pothole complaints for county roads can be called in to 858-7966 or emailed to potholes@erie.gov.

A stretch of potholes on Lakeview Road. (John Hickey/Buffalo News)

Republicans in the Erie County Legislature are calling for an additional $5 million in reserve funds to be added to the $36.5 million already in the county budget for infrastructure improvements to roads and bridges.

“The deteriorating condition of our roads has caused headaches for our entire community,” said Legislator John Mills. “In many cases, drivers are seeking alternate routes to avoid the roads in serious disrepair."

Potholes form during the freeze-thaw cycle over the course of the winter. Water seeps through cracks in the pavement, which seizes up as the water expands when it freezes. Then the ice thaws, the pavement drops down and breaks in as tires pound it.

"This has been a strong freeze-thaw winter," said Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steven Stepniak. "It's been challenging for the entire Western New York area."

There are pothole hotlines and email reporting addresses in Buffalo and in smaller communities like Clarence, where Highway Superintendent James Dussing said different branches of government are pretty good about reporting complaints they receive to the proper department.

But whether it's a village, town, county or state road, there are a lot of people talking about how bad the roads are, Dussing said.

"Roads are coming apart, potholes are blowing out, shoulders blowing out, edges are cracking," he said. "I would say there's a lot of work to do."

Buffalo has full-time crews filling potholes, and Clarence and West Seneca also have had crews out in the winter patching potholes.

"We send out two crews with cold patch almost every day," West Seneca Highway Superintendent Matthew English said.

They've had plenty of work to do. Road crews usually use cold patch over the winter and early spring, because the asphalt plants shut down over the winter.  The plants are open on a limited basis now, several highway superintendents said.

"We did our first hot patch yesterday on Mill Road bridge," English said Thursday.

It may be back to the cold patch next week, when the temperature is supposed to drop into the 30s.

But not in Niagara County. This is the first winter the county has used a Crafco Patcher, a trailer-mounted machine that cost less than $50,000 that heats, agitates and dispenses a thick mastic sealant. The polymer mix is heated to more than 400 degrees, plopped into holes in the pavement for a permanent fix.

Innovative process puts the heat on Niagara County potholes

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