A truck misses a rain-filled pothole at South Sixth Avenue and Schilling Place, one of thousands around the Tucson area. A letter writer insists county supervisors should focus on roadwork instead of fixing buildings.

If there’s one thing that most Tucsonans experience in their daily commutes, it’s potholes.

You know, those sometimes large, crater-like holes in the road that trigger drivers to swerve to keep them from being another victim of vehicle damage.

You may find them on major thoroughfares or on lesser roads, but one thing is certain: Potholes are a real problem, and our local transportation departments recognize that.

“At this point, we have 70 percent poor or failed roads; we’re really to the point that we need good solutions,” said Robert Lane, manager of the Pima County Department of Transportation’s maintenance and right-of-way management division. “You can’t patch your way out of a failed roadway.”

County officials are working to address the problems by testing 14 different paving treatments on 4.3 miles of San Joaquin Road, southwest of Tucson. The goal is to find an economical and long-term solution to the problem.

The treatments are laid out in 1,000-foot stretches along the 4.3 miles of road using materials such as asphalt and concrete. The testing is paid for with a portion of $16 million in 1997 Highway User Revenue Funds reallocated by the Pima County Board of Supervisors to assist with road repairs.

The correct treatment must provide the best opportunity to make sure the roads hold up, especially during Tucson monsoons and winter when rain seeps into cracks in the road, expands in the cold and then, as cars continuously pass over, makes potholes.

Lane said the wet weather we experienced last year and into 2019 only exacerbates the pothole problems.

“We could patch an area and then be out there two weeks later after a storm event,” Lane said. “Because areas that hadn’t shown any damage get a little water underneath them, you have traffic going over it, and all of a sudden you have a pothole in different sections.”

The study results could help prevent motorists from having to make claims to the county to pay for their vehicle damages like Brian Flores, whose run-in with a pothole ruined a passenger-side tire in 2016.

Pima County later shelled out $1,200 to fix his vehicle, according to Arizona Daily Star archives.

Since laying down the treatments last May, officials have been evaluating how the materials crack and rut, the roughness and wearing down of the surfaces.

An important factor for the future road fixes is determining the right fit for the type of vehicles along a road.

For instance, areas with higher-than-average heavy truck traffic wouldn’t require the same material as a subdivision road.

“If people have issues with damage to their vehicles, it doesn’t make sense to utilize that treatment if it’s something that checks the boxes in one area and then gives us problems somewhere else,” Lane said.

Lane also said the cheapest, one-size-fits-all fixes may not be what’s best for the community.

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

“I think the end result we’re looking for is not necessarily one specific treatment, but maybe we can make our toolbox a little bit bigger.”

Down the road

Sixth Avenue repaving set for Wednesday: Road crews will be milling and repaving the northbound left-turn lane of Sixth Avenue from Pennington Street to Toole Avenue from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday.

The lane will be closed to motorists during the work, and delays are expected.

Motorists should use caution, watch for personnel and active equipment in the area.

Aerospace Parkway at railroad crossing temporarily closed: The temporary closure of Aerospace Parkway at the Union Pacific Railroad crossing continues until Friday, Feb. 22.

On Saturday morning, Union Pacific crews started removing and replacing track signals at the crossing due to the widening of Aerospace Parkway. It is the final road closure needed to adjust the crossing.

Motorists should use caution in the area. If possible, use alternate routes.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or sdavis@tucson.com

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1



Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.