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So will you be dodging potholes all winter?

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Posted at 9:12 AM, Dec 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-13 09:12:51-05

With temperatures still well above freezing — even climbing back into the 60s this weekend — Tri-State drivers haven’t had to worry about the toll winter takes on roads.

Besides the obvious challenge of driving on slick and snowy streets, pavement takes a beating from repeated freeze-thaw cycles, and the heavy plows and chemical treatments that make it possible to get from A to B when Mother Nature turns nasty. That leads to the favorite spring sport: dodging potholes.

Cincinnati officials say most of the damage from last year’s long, snowy season has been repaired and that the city’s streets are in good condition. In addition, thanks in part to the extended warm weather, the city expects to complete its annual goal of rehabilitating 100 lane miles of streets.

“We are currently tracking to reach the annual target,” City Manager Harry Black said in an email. “We won’t have a final number until late December.”

That’s because the construction season is still rolling. (If you doubt it, drive through Clifton, where orange cones outnumber Christmas trees on several streets.) “Depending on the weather, contractors can work until about Dec. 15 during a typical year,” Black said. “That’s when the asphalt plants typically shut down for the winter.”

Cincinnati also has put new emphasis on responding more quickly to requests for infrastructure repairs like potholes, Black said. “We’re using data and real-time information to make this happen.”

Of 6,739 pothole repair requests the city received through Dec. 9, 6,725 or more than 99 percent — all but the most recently received, Black said — have been closed. The city repairs potholes year-round, he said.

The 100 miles of street paving is the result of the city’s street rehabilitation program, which covers every neighborhood — though not every street — in the city on a three-year rotation. The program, Black said, “uses a detailed process to determine which streets are rehabilitated. The process looks at numerous factors, including the allocation of city funds and grant money, the rehabilitation cycle year, anticipated utilities or development conflicts, and current pavement conditions.”

The city’s Department of Public Services handles repairs like filling potholes. The Department of Transportation and Engineering oversees full street rehabilitation.

To decide which category a damaged road falls under, the city uses a digital-rating process to survey all 940 centerline miles of local streets, the city manager said. The evaluation uses lasers, GPS technology, digital image capturing and other processing equipment. Analysts then rate roads on a PCI — pavement condition index — which examines such road conditions as cracking, potholes and the need for general resurfacing.

“It took three weeks earlier this year to survey all of Cincinnati’s streets,” Black said. “The data will be used to develop a pavement-management plan that will take the subjectivity out of prioritizing street repairs.”

In the end, he said, it will mean a more efficient use of the city’s resources.

After urging by Mayor John Cranley, who has made roads a priority, Black proposed and Cincinnati City Council approved directing more money to the program. The capital acceleration plan was adopted in the fiscal 2016-2017 biennial budget.

Pothole problem?

Cincinnati now offers several ways for people to report infrastructure problems like potholes.

  • Fix it Cincy! is a free smartphone app available for Android and Apple's iOS devices. With it, users can locate and report problems by address or by GPS (if the smartphone is GPS-enabled) and track the status of their reports.
  • The city’s online service portal, 5916000.com, has many of the same capabilities as the app.
  • The namesake of the website’s address is the city’s main phone number, 513-591-6000. Callers can use it to speak with a customer-service representative.