Pothole repairs are taking much longer in Tucson

2013-06-23T00:00:00Z Pothole repairs are taking much longer in TucsonDarren DaRonco Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 23, 2013 12:00 am  • 

If you think it's taking longer for the city to fix those potholes at the end of your street, it's not your imagination - it is.

Budget cuts and a dwindling staff have caused the city's response time to balloon - to about seven times longer than it was a decade ago.

In 2003, the average wait time was six days before a crew patched a hole.

Today it's 42 working days.

The city has had to adjust to the Legislature siphoning off transportation money in recent years and other revenue reductions. And those changes have exacerbated the city's pothole problem, officials say.

Even though many factors contribute to the long repair wait, the city cites three main reasons.

• The city ended its annual chip-seal program years ago.

• It has lacked a comprehensive asphalt maintenance program, allowing potholes to proliferate.

• It has cut its streets department by 37 employees since 2003.

"If you put those three things together, it's just taken us a lot longer to get out there to perform these asphalt repairs," said city spokesman Mike Graham.

While just about every Arizona city has experienced budget woes recently, a quick check of other cities in the state shows repair times only seem to have been affected in Tucson.

On average, the city's repair times lag behind other municipalities by about 40 days.

The towns of Oro Valley and Marana both report they address their potholes within 24 to 48 hours.

Even if crews in Marana can't provide a permanent remedy right away, they place a temporary patch and then return within a week or two to complete the job, says Rodney Campbell, the town spokesman.

Sahuarita completes its pothole repairs in about one day.

And in Yuma, city workers are dispatched within 24 hours, officials there say.

The quick turnaround times are all a part of Yuma's customer-service oriented approach, said Yuma spokesman Dave Nash.

Granted, those communities are much smaller and have less asphalt to cover than Tucson.

What about larger metro areas in the state?

Phoenix dedicates a five-team crew to the problem, and they take care of potholes in 24 hours.

Tempe's crews fill a pothole with a temporary fix within 30 minutes, then return in a one week or two for a more permanent solution.

Tempe accomplishes this despite suffering major state funding losses the past few years, said Sue Taaffe, a spokeswoman for the city.

Pima County fixes potholes on major roads within 24 hours. Less traveled, remote roads are fixed in about three to four weeks, said Priscilla Cornelio, Pima County's Department of Transportation director.

Despite the city's dismal repair-time numbers, a silver lining is on the horizon.

The city's current pavement preservation program and the implementation of a maintenance program this summer, the city's wait time should go down, Graham said.

"Thanks to voters approving Proposition 409, the city's road recovery program will improve the pavement conditions on many city streets and provide a safer and better driving experience for motorists and bicyclists," he said.

Contact reporter Darren DaRonco at 573-4243 or ddaronco@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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