Potholes are making an early appearance on Ottawa roads this year.
And if weather this week is any indication, we’re in for a bumper crop.
Monday started above freezing, but the temperature plummeted in the afternoon — perfect breeding conditions for the road hazards. It’s due to get warm again — as high as 11C on Friday— before dipping back into the double digits below zero.
“That thaw-freeze cycle is deadly,” said Coun. Marianne Wilkinson, transportation committee chair.
“Water can do a lot of damage.”
Just how much damage isn’t clear.
The exact number of potholes in the city is impossible to track, said Dan O’Keefe, the city’s manager of roads and traffic operations.
“The number changes every day,” he said.
The amount of pothole repairs are calculated by the tons of asphalt used and city workers have already begun patching operations. The city can’t say specifically how much is spent to repair potholes because it comes out of the $69- million winter maintenance budget.
In 2010, the city of Ottawa spent just over $2.20 million dollars on pothole repairs. The total budget for all types of roadway asphalt repair is just over $5 million.
But for the nearly 1,500 people who call the road their office, this time of year is synonymous with forking over big bucks.
“We’re getting a lot of complaints from our members about the potholes,” said Amrik Singh, president of the Ontario Taxi Union/CAW Local 1688.
“Our people are spending a lot of money to the repairs for the tires,” he said, on average $300 to $400 every year.
Singh recalls hitting a doozy last year, when he was driving four people to the airport.
“Right at Bronson and Catherine, the pothole was so big my front right tire was cut like somebody cut it with a knife,” he said.
It cost $200 to fix the tire and around $1,000 for the rim.
That’s a pretty big blow.
“Normally you don’t get a flat but normally you get a bent wheel,” said Chad Woolsey, automotive technician at Frisby Tire on Industrial Ave.
“If it’s hit really hard, it will bend the wheel and wreck the tire.”
Pothole damage may also throw the alignment off, which increases wear on tires and could affect brake suspension components, said Woolsey.
And the price for new parts varies.
“If you bent a rim, a steel wheel, about $100. If you bent an aluminum wheel, upwards of $500,” he said, adding a four-wheel alignment costs $90.
Woolsey said he thinks the worst pothole in the city is on Bank St. between Heron Rd. and Hunt Club Rd.
Regardless of the weather or season, when you do see a hole, “don’t hit the brakes,” said CAA spokesperson Korey Kennedy.
“Try to safely avert it. If not, just go as slowly over it as possible.”
The best course of action, Kennedy said, is to make sure your tires are properly inflated and your vehicle is routinely maintained.