Pothole season meets the app age

Jeannette Ross photos

It’s pothole season, and if you’re looking for an example of one, you don’t have to drive very far around Wilton.

There’s one right alongside town hall, on the side road that leads to the police station. There’s one off Danbury Road, leading to the Wilton YMCA. And right near the town center, there’s a swarm of potholes that cropped up near the bottom of Belden Hill Road.

Potholes are failures of the road surface, mostly found on asphalt roads, caused when water in the soil beneath the asphalt and the weight of vehicles passing over it weakens the supporting soil. As time goes on broken pieces of asphalt are dug out, leaving a hole.

The good news is, the pothole problem is less severe than in the past, because of the intense efforts to repave town roads.

“Yes, it has improved,” said Mike Ahern, interim manager of the Department of Public Works. “It seemed like we had pothole requests almost every other day on the southern portion of Belden Hill Road until we paved it last year. Other roads that had frequent pothole requests which have disappeared were Saunders Drive and Sugarloaf Drive, which were also paved last year.”

So what do you do if you see a pothole? Some people still call the public works office. But lately, many people have been using the SeeClickFix application found on the town’s website, wiltonct.org.

There, residents may post a message about a pothole or other problem and it goes right into the process of being repaired. A check of SeeClickFix entries this past week showed almost immediate attention to fixing the problems.

“People still call in to our office, but we have seen an increase in residents using SeeClickFix for a variety of requests, some with photos included,” Ahern said.

Crews are out fixing potholes in between snow and ice storms. The potholes are noticeable at this time, he said, because of the frost action and snowplows scraping over the top.

The Bulletin caught up with Richard Matthews and David Messner of the Public Works Department on Monday on Charter Oak Drive. They were using what’s known as cold patch to fill in some smaller potholes.

“It’s easy to work with and it turns white, so we know it’s a patch,” Matthews said, pointing to a light gray circle on the road, a pothole that was patched last year. If a patch survives winter weather, as that one did, they’ll leave it alone. Otherwise, they will come back in the spring and apply a hot patch, which is more durable.

The cold patch product comes from Unique Paving Materials. It’s used now because the material for a hot patch is not available in winter, Messner said.

It is a sticky, dark black material they just pour out of a bag, tamp down with shovel and rake, and then run over with their truck.

Potholes need to be at least a few inches thick for the patch to take, they said. If a pothole is shallow, the patch will flake over it.

Sometimes potholes are caused by other problems. Ahern mentioned a sinkhole at the end of Boulder Brook Road, which had to be excavated to repair. It was caused by a partially separated pipe.

Truth be told, though, pothole season never ends. Crews can work at fixing them year-round, Ahern said.

— Jeannette Ross contributed to this story