By Hannah Troyer
This winter may have been tough with record amounts of snowfall and frigid temperatures, but dealing with the aftermath may be tougher.
As the Indianapolis Department of Public Works fights for more money to combat the large number of potholes on local roads, counties around the state are also struggling to patch up the craters.
"The extreme temps we experienced with the ice and snow for prolonged periods of time" have contributed to more potholes, said Dennis Faulkenberg, president and CEO of Appian, an Indianapolis transportation consulting firm.
"Then you add the spring warm up and the rains which allow moisture to get into the cracks formed - it is a tough problem. But it is eye-opening for public and elected officials to see the problem facing our roads and streets and the amount of money it will take to fix," Faulkenberg said.
Faulkenberg says there is no way to measure how bad the pothole situation is in Indiana counties. He says the extra $100 million approved for counties for road projects during the 2013 legislative session will help pay to fix the higher number of potholes. But he said the money may have come too late for some counties.
Local governments "will have to stretch every dime, which they've already been doing," Faulkenberg said. "They have done a Band-Aid fix with the money they have. The extra money will help, but several years of neglect are showing with the pothole problems."
Officials at the Indiana Department of Transportation seem concerned with a possible financial strain caused by an effort to fix state and US highways. The agency continued to monitor the pothole situation throughout the winter when not plowing snow or undertaking other winter maintenance projects.
"The majority of our funding goes to infrastructure," said Will Wingfield, a spokesperson for INDOT. "The operational budget - which has the money for pothole fixings - has the ability to move funds to make sure that we are doing expected patch repairs. It was a rough winter. We invested more in snow operations and pothole patch jobs."
Because of this increased investment, Wingfield says INDOT may have to postpone some summer projects until the next fiscal year to ensure a proper amount of funding for pothole and road repairs.
Wingfield also said that potholes are not necessarily an easy fix. INDOT and local road repair organizations address potholes within a day or two after a report is filed. But that doesn't always completely solve the problem.
"We try to educate and tell people that potholes require regular maintenance," Wingfield said. "One pothole may have to be patched multiple times."
For any more permanent relief, Hoosiers may once again be at the mercy of Mother Nature, hoping she will bring warmer temperatures. Plants that produce the asphalt used to pave roads cannot open until temperatures reach 40-50 degrees.
Hannah Troyer is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.