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Minneapolis to launch all-out pothole assault

City leaders say overtime, weekend hours and up to $1 million in funds are all in the arsenal when it comes to repairing the holes winter has left in the roads.

MINNEAPOLIS — Minneapolis city leaders are launching an all-out assault on what many residents are probably calling public enemy number one. 

Yes, the creature known as the pesky pothole. 

An unusual winter with tons of snow and relatively mild temperatures has carried with it far more freeze/thaw cycles than usual, triggering an outbreak of potholes like Minneapolis hasn't seen since the winter of 2013-14, according to Public Works Director Margaret Anderson Kelliher. 

At a news conference Tuesday, Kelliher, Mayor Jacob Frey and Minneapolis Transportation Maintenance and Repair Director Joe Paumen put on a united front, insisting the city has a plan for repairing its weather-ravaged streets. It includes more crews, additional overtime and weekend hours, and an estimated $1 million to pay for it. 

"We've already had 80 inches of snow this winter, and when you have that amount of snow, when you've had the freeze-thaw cycles we've seen, when you have the freezing rain, when you have the runoff, it freezes and then melts again, it does wreak havoc on our roads and on our infrastructure," said Frey, declaring that Minneapolis has now officially entered pothole season. 

The mayor said residents will notice an increased presence of public works crews filling potholes with an asphalt-gravel mixture commonly called "cold mix" until the freeze-thaw cycle is officially over, a seasonal transition that is still weeks away. 

Anderson Kelliher says the public works department will use about 250 tons of transitional cold mix this year, utilizing it as a band-aid of sorts until the weather cooperates. At that point (April 1 or so), crews will begin using "hot mix" from a plant in St. Paul, a different patching compound that can last up to two years while the cold mix fixes can last as little as two weeks. 

Kelliher expects that when hot mix becomes available crews will be repairing up to 200 potholes every day. She says the worst offenders will get priority, but efficiency will also play a role as crews are assigned their routes.

Until that time, the mayor is asking residents to do three things: 

  • Say thank you to the hard-working repair crews
  • Be patient - there are thousands of potholes that need fixing
  • Call 311 to report potholes you encounter, and if possible send in a picture of the axel-busters

Long term, the only way to prevent potholes is to shore up the city's streets, something Anderson Kelliher says is ongoing as part of the 20-year plan. She explains that this year the public works department will seal coat 20 miles of roads, seal the cracks in 30 miles of street surface, and reconstruct and reseal an additional 31 miles. 

Across the river in St. Paul, the problem is just as bad but the approach is slightly different. The city has actually lowered the speed limit on streets like Shepard Road that are especially pothole-laden, and on Monday Mayor Melvin Carter helped introduce a proposal for the city to introduce a 1% sales (pothole!) tax. The aim is to raise a billion dollars over 20 years to address wear and tear on city streets that affects residents' quality of life. 

"Our potholes are talking to us right now," Carter told a group of St. Paul business leaders. "We've had one of the roughest winters ever, so we expect the problem with potholes will be the worst we've ever had."



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