An Early, Unwelcome Pothole Season

Rockland County and town of Clarkstown and Orangetown highway crews have been busy this week repairing potholes that vary from several inches deep to a row of one after another that drivers have to maneuver between. A rapid weather cycle of freezing temperatures followed by thawing and rainfall led to potholes quickly forming throughout the county. All three department superintendents urge drivers to notify their offices when they come across potholes.

County Highway Superintendent Charles “Skip” Vezzetti said crews got to work in earnest this week.  

“Certainly they’re popping up much earlier than usual,” said Vezzetti, noting that it has been an early pothole season from the Hudson Valley up to Albany.

He said a portion of Strawtown Road that the New York State Thruway passes over was in bad shape because a lot of utility work was done in the summer but the county did not get the chance to repair the road before the cold weather arrived.

On Wednesday, the department had five crews out repairing potholes and they were working in each of the county’s towns. Vezzetti said because the temperature was relatively mild and the rain stopped they were able to use a hot mix which is more permanent than a winter mix which is a cold mix and temporary. Vezzetti expected crews should finish filling potholes on county roads on Friday and said crews typically respond to complaints within 24 hours.

Clarkstown Highway Superintendent Wayne Ballard said this winter has been especially challenging.

“A highway superintendent wants one of two things: a really cold season or a very warm winter,” said. “A fluctuating winter with varying temperatures causes the roads to heave and allows water to get into the road and the freeze/thaw pops the asphalt.  The more the temperature fluctuates, the more potholes that are going to occur.”

Clarkstown also has been using hot mix which Ballard explained enables the blacktop to better adhere to the road.

Orangetown Highway Superintendent Jim Dean said seven crews were working on pothole repairs on Thursday and he expected them to be finished in a day or two. He said crews have already used as much mix this winter as they usually use in an entire season even though Orangetown uses 25 percent less mix than neighboring towns because of its pavement preservation program. 

"We’re on top of it this time of year,” said Dean, who is in his 53rd year working with the department. “Normally we have one or two crews on patrol. We are answering notices we have, starting with main roads, first, the ones with the heaviest traffic flow and impact. We are seeing more than we usually do.”

Dean said the town’s roads were in pretty good shape despite the weather.

"These weather conditions, in all my time here, this is the most unusual set of circumstances I've seen,” said Dean. “We have already had three freeze-thaw cycles and it's the middle of January."

"We don’t want to see big holes people will lose a tire or bend a rim in,” said Dean. “We don't want people swerving to miss holes and create collisions and don’t want them wrecking their vehicles, so we are doing our due diligence and utmost to address any holes there. "

Dean said responding to a pothole report is a priority.

"If a municipality is formally notified there is a dangerous condition and doesn’t respond to take care of it, it could be liable for damages," he said.  

Vezzetti said potholes are an annual occurrence and should not take anyone by surprise.

“Potholes have been part of our lifestyle for the last 80 years,” he said.

To report potholes on county roads call the highway department at 845-638-5060. To report a pothole on a Clarkstown road, call the Clarkstown Highway Department, (845) 623-7500 or email Highway@Clarkstown.org. The Orangetown Highway Department can be reached at 845-359-6500.







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