Pittsburgh mayor, city crews tackling some potholes today

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For any driver who has been annoyed this winter by potholes -- the spine-realigning, 4.0-on-the-Richter-scale monstrosities that have appeared across the city -- the scene on Negley Avenue Saturday afternoon was a welcome one.

Mayor Bill Peduto, dressed in jeans and a neon yellow coat, filled potholes with members of a Pittsburgh public works crew at Negley and Penn avenues. This weekend continues the city's second "pothole blitz" of the year, a rapid-fire approach to repairing city streets.

Frequent temperature swings have wreaked havoc on roads, prompting Mr. Peduto to call it one of the worst years for potholes he has ever seen.

"I'm born and raised Pittsburgh," he said. "I don't remember a time when there have been so many potholes over such a big area."

On a mild, sunny day that seemed to belie Punxsutawney Phil's extended winter prediction, crews got a reprieve from weeks of harsh temperatures and snow.

They used the time to scour the city for potholes, a task that began Wednesday. The first "blitz" occurred mid-January.

Mr. Peduto urged drivers to report potholes to the city's 311 service and on Twitter @pgh311.

According to the mayor's office, officials have so far received more than 1,400 calls and tweets regarding potholes.

By this evening, crews will have applied 364 tons of cold patch asphalt to potholes, said Guy Costa, chief operations officer for the city. Twenty-six patching crews and six street sweepers were on Pittsburgh streets Saturday.

For the mayor, Saturday was not the first time he has patched potholes. In 1984 he was an intern for the Scott Township road crew while in college and spent much of his time filling potholes.

"I know what I'm doing," he said with a laugh.

Mr. Peduto acknowledged cold patching -- in which crews fill holes with asphalt, pack it down and cover it with sand -- is a temporary solution. Hot asphalt lasts longer and will be available in Allegheny County on March 17, when companies in the area begin producing it again. The closest available hot asphalt plant is in Beaver County, which Mr. Peduto said is not cost-efficient.

He said the city is looking into a joint city-county asphalt plant that would allow Pittsburgh to not have to use cold patching.

"It's only trying to keep up with the problem," Mr. Peduto said of the blitzes. "Next year we're hoping to be more proactive."

The city sold its asphalt plant as a cost-saving measure as part of the Act 47 recovery plan in 2004. Mr. Costa said the former plant was not cost-effective.

Over the last five weeks, Mr. Peduto said public works crews have worked six to seven days a week to try to keep up with the ever-growing number of potholes.

"I thank people for being patient with it," he said. "We've got this little break, and this is the time to blitz it."

Meanwhile, Mr. Peduto said they are prepared for and expecting another winter storm this season. The city's salt supply remains at 1,250 tons.

Lauren Lindstrom: llindstrom@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1964. First Published February 22, 2014 8:31 AM

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