Pothole Problem Plagues San Angelo
SAN ANGELO, TX — City Manager Daniel Valenzuela said the number one complaint he hears from citizens right now involves potholes. Across the City, potholes are appearing faster than City crews can fill them.
City Operations Director Shane Kelton said the problem is especially bad this year because earlier in the year, there was a large amount of rain. Then as the summer months drew on, the rain subsided and was replaced by record-breaking dry heat. Hot pavement on damp ground is a recipe for cracked asphalt, Kelton explained.
San Angelo isn’t the only city experiencing a pothole crisis. Kelton said for about five weeks, the City was unable to find a vendor for asphalt material. The supply of cold patch material could not keep up with demand. And then there was the rain that curtailed manufacturing the asphalt material.
“We had a lot of spring rain, and with the wet weather, the cold patch material wasn’t being manufactured,” Kelton said. “And this stuff has a shelf life so we don’t like to stock too much of it even if we could anticipate the shortage.”
While obtaining supplies for fixing the potholes have finally caught up, Kelton said his other problem is retaining workers for the City street repair crew. In 2015, under Mayor Morrison, part of the multi-year $80 million streets repaving plan was to reconstitute a fulltime street crew to attack potholes as the City embarked on major street reconstruction on roadways like Bell Street.
Maintaining a street repair crew is harder than just budgeting money to pay for it.
“I lost four more workers last week,” Kelton said. As fast as the City can hire a worker to be on the street crew they’ll leave for the private sector. Kelton said he was already short eight workers before an additional four turned in their notice last week.
Entry-level street repair laborers make $10.61 per hour. That is not enough to keep them at the City after they are trained to operate the street repair equipment.
“They’ll get their CDL while here at the City and then leave for better pay in the oil field,” Kelton said.
There isn’t a specific area where the problem persists. The potholes are popping up all over the City, Kelton said. The worst areas Kelton has noticed are on Ben Ficklin Road on the south side of town and many of the numbered streets in the Lake View area.
“Many of those streets in Lake View were just caliche roads after the City annexed the area in the 1950s,” Kelton said. Over the years, those old caliche roads were overlaid with a coat of asphalt starting i the 1970s. Kelton estimates 90 percent of the roads in the northern numbered streets have maybe two layers of seal coat atop caliche.
“We don’t built streets like that anymore, but we have to work with the way they were built here years ago,” Kelton said.
City Manager Valenzuela said the problem couldn’t be fixed only by dedicating more money to the problem alone. He said his staff is looking for ways to improve worker retention.
The City is responsible for paving about 1,200 lane miles of roadways inside the city limits. The Texas Department of Transportation, or TxDOT, maintains major thoroughfares like Knickerbocker Road, Sherwood Way, and Bryant Blvd.
Lake View was annexed by the City of San Angelo in the 1950s. The paving of the caliche roads there started in the 1970s. The story originally stated the annexation happened in the 1970s.
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