Southern California’s recent wet weather has left road crews with a maintenance problem: roads full of dangerous potholes. Around the region, agencies have seen a spike in maintenance requests and are scrambling out road crews to address the problem of pockmarked streets and highways. And if crews can’t attend to the repairs quickly enough, more drivers bump over the potholes and they get bigger.
It’s a widespread and costly problem. A 2016 survey by AAA found nearly 30 million drivers around the U.S. that year had pothole damage to their cars that required repairs, at costs typically ranging from $250 to $1,000.
With large amounts of rain and little recovery time between downpours in recent weeks, both interstate and state routes across Southern California have taken a beating, said Caltrans spokeswoman Van Nguyen. As a result, pothole repair orders have increased significantly throughout the region—repair orders are up 80% compared with the same period in 2018: from 21,197 repairs in January/February 2018 to 38,212 repairs this year.
In L.A. & Ventura Counties, pothole repair orders have almost quadrupled compared with this time last year: from 1,173 repairs in January/February 2018 to 4,466 repairs this year.
In San Bernardino & Riverside Counties, repair orders almost doubled year-on-year: from 6,125 repairs in early 2018 to 11,279 repairs this year.
In Orange County, the number of potholes filled in so far this year has more than doubled compared with last year at this time: 193 fixes then, and 503 fixes now.
O.C. public works crews have been “all over the place” recently, said Anaheim spokeswoman Erin Ryan. Anaheim filled over 2,200 potholes in January and addressed over 2,800 potholes in February—more than 70% of the nearly 6,000 potholes filled in all of 2018. Fullerton’s 2019 total was 6,342 potholes repaired, compared with 3,634 potholes filled in the same period last year—or an increase of more than 74%.
In Southern California, potholes often result from a combination of heavy traffic, natural aging and rain. When rainwater seeps into the cracks in older, less well-maintained roads, it loosens up the asphalt; then the vibration of traffic causes the material to shift and weaken, giving way to potholes.
The roads that tend to have the most problems are typically already high on the list to be overhauled or see heavy traffic, explained Fullerton Public Works Director Meg McWade. “The more a street is in need of rehabilitation, the more potholes you’ll end up finding on it, especially when we have rain.”
Road Rehabilitation is one of four critical state that needs to be addressed by Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. SB 1 invests $5.4 billion annually over the next decade to fix California’s transportation system. Each year, new funding will be used to tackle deferred maintenance needs both on the state highway system and the local road system.