Steamboat’s pothole season sinks in |

Steamboat’s pothole season sinks in

Road crews make temporary fixes amid early thaw

A Subaru wagon hits a pothole as it turns off U.S. Highway 40 onto Hilltop Parkway on Monday morning. Road crews are making temporary fixes to potholes, but permanent repairs will have to wait for warmer weather in spring and summer.
John F. Russell

— This winter’s drastic freeze-and-thaw cycles have created plenty of potholes on local roads, and drivers might have to spend a few more months avoiding the perilous pits before warmer weather allows lasting fixes.

“I’ve noticed it, for sure,” Heidi Heath said Monday morning while working at the Ski Haus gas station and convenience store at Pine Grove Road and U.S. Highway 40, a particularly pockmarked intersection.

Heath also noted some rough spots closer to downtown Steamboat Springs.

“Especially turning left off Hilltop (Parkway, onto U.S. 40), I’m always dodging them,” said Heath, who lives on Hilltop Parkway.

Road crew leaders for the city of Steamboat Springs and the Colorado Department of Transportation say they’ve been doing what they can to provide temporary fixes this winter, filling holes with cold-mix asphalt when conditions allow.

CDOT regional spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said CDOT crews used nearly 5 tons of cold-mix asphalt from Dec. 2 to March 2 to patch holes along U.S. 40 from

Milner to the base of Rabbit Ears Pass.

“They’re going to continue to do that as much as they can,” Shanks said.

But she cited no specific repair projects in the immediate pipeline and called local pothole levels “somewhat par for the course” for this time of year.

“It’s pothole season,” she said. “We get them every winter, especially when it starts to thaw.”

City Public Works Director Philo Shelton said this winter’s significant snowfall, compared to last winter, has produced more moisture that can seep into cracked pavement and create potholes.

“It’s definitely higher than last year,” Shelton said. “Through the winter months, we use a cold-mix asphalt and it lasts a while. But if you get a lot of moisture, like we did Sunday, (the moisture) does create more potholes.”

The road hazards are becoming increasingly noticeable along the heavily traveled U.S. 40 stretch from the mountain area to downtown, and in isolated spots around Steamboat.

“The spring is a tough time of year for roads, especially up here. We get the extreme freeze-thaw cycle,” city street superintendent Doug Marsh said. “We’ve had quite a few potholes this year.”

Constant maintenance

Marsh said the maintenance is constant.

“We have a list of potholes that we go out and check every dry day — and they seem to pop back up after every little snowstorm,” he said. “If the hole was dry and we put asphalt in there, it would last a lot longer, but when it’s wet and we put asphalt in there, it pops back out the next day.”

In terms of lasting improvements, Marsh said asphalt overlays are planned this summer behind the downtown post office and at the Hilltop Parkway intersection with U.S. 40.

Marsh said a “catch basin” to be installed at that intersection will collect water and funnel it underground.

Water currently pools on the surface there, leading to road damage.

The city funds paving costs out of its capital improvement program. Shelton said current allocations are $750,000 a year.

“We want to keep that funding level to keep our streets in good condition,” Shelton said.

That funding level isn’t guaranteed — the city’s capital improvement program is facing demands on numerous fronts. Steamboat Springs City Council President Cari Hermacinski said at a March 1 meeting that a “huge deferred maintenance bubble” could be coming down the road for paving costs in a couple of years, if current spending levels and budget projections continue.

On the brighter side, cratered asphalt around the city presents a stark comparison to the fresh concrete along downtown’s main drag, after CDOT’s massive repaving project that concluded in the fall.

“It did hold up well,” Marsh said about the newly surfaced Lincoln Avenue. “In years past, by this time you couldn’t see any striping whatsoever, and the state didn’t come in to stripe until maybe June.”

—To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or e-mail

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