Progress in patches: Wilson crews toil to fill potholes, fix streets

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Snowy winter storms followed by a wet spring is keeping street division crews busy patching broken asphalt five days a week if the weather cooperates.

“North Carolina has a bad freeze-thaw cycle, so it freezes at night, then thaws out during the day,” Wilson Street Division Manager Tim Eaton said. “That moisture gets down in the cracks of the asphalt, then expands and contracts. It expands and contracts over and over to create more cracks.”

Eaton said since January, crews have been patching about five potholes a day between problems reported by other city employees and issues reported by residents.

“We’ve used over 4,200 tons of asphalt since July 1,” Eaton said. “We have put down more asphalt this year than any other year I can look at within the department. Last year, we did 3,889 tons of asphalt.”

The amount of asphalt and time differs depending on the size and severity of the pothole. Eaton said crews usually try to do a temporary patch the same day residents report issues, but then come back later for a more permanent patch.

“Crews cut whatever needs to be taken out for the affected area and dig it out with a backhoe, then put in a permanent patch,” Eaton explained.

The permanent patch involves using an asphalt tack around the edge to allow the new asphalt to adhere to the existing asphalt. After that, hot asphalt is poured from a truck and spread out over the area. An asphalt roller is used to smooth out the patch before more asphalt is poured and spread, then smoothed again.

“Once they are done, that is it and traffic can ride over it,” Eaton said.

Residents can report potholes with the Fix-It Wilson app on mobile devices, by visiting tinyurl.com/y8qeu3yh or by calling 252-399-2424.

“Last spring we started a maintenance program where we identify areas that need attention before they become problematic,” Eaton said. “We want to extend the life of the streets.”

In terms of fixing problems and potholes once they exist, Eaton said crews focus on the “worst of the worst” first.

“We don’t want to waste time bouncing from one side of town to the other,” he said. “If there is a bunch in one area, we’re going to get the ones in that area, then move on.”