You’ve probably seen the recent influx of annual visitors around town, adding hassles to your already stressful commute and straining the region’s already crumbling roadways.

No, we’re not talking about snowbirds.

Along with a reminder that the seasonal variations of Southern Arizona aren’t just hot and hotter, this winter has brought a new crop of potholes, asphalt cracks and other pavement problems.

“The enemy of asphalt is water,” said Daryl Cole, city of Tucson Department of Transportation director.

Cole said the winter rains we’ve had caused some expected asphalt degradation of city streets, but several days of below-freezing overnight lows really put a strain on roads.

“Expansion and contraction, then you put a load on it — come on,” he said.

That freeze-thaw cycle is one of the most damaging threats to asphalt, Cole said. The cold makes asphalt brittle, while rain and constant pressure from cars cause cracks and breaks. Once the water gets into the cracks, it’s just a matter of time before it starts to erode the material beneath the asphalt, causing potholes and other road hazards.

Pima County Department of Transportation spokeswoman Annabelle Valenzuela said the county also has experienced some seasonal asphalt issues.

“It’s routine maintenance for us,” Valenzuela said.

She said the county department expects to see asphalt breaks in the winter, especially when the temperatures drop below freezing, even more so when winter rains come.

The city currently has more than 500 open work orders for asphalt maintenance. Cole said the number of requests was high — even higher than during the run-up to the 2012 vote on Proposition 409, when road conditions had grown so bad that voters opted to allow the city to borrow $100 million to pay for repairs.

Cole attributes the larger number of requests currently to recognition among the public that the city has been quicker to repair damaged roads.

On any given day, the city has at least five crews on the streets dedicated to patching potholes. On busy days there can be double that many. Most crews have three to five workers.

While the county doesn’t have crews on the streets dedicated to surface repairs, they are actively making repairs in problem areas.

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In addition to the city’s roving repair teams, Cole said in late January and early February to expect to see several areas of Prop. 409-funded road work around town. But that’s the subject of another column.

In the meantime, if you see new potholes and other road hazards, here are some numbers to call to let someone know:

Pima County: 740-2639 or make requests online at https://webcms.pima.gov/cms/One.aspx?portalId=169&pageId=65988

City of Tucson: Call 791-3154 or 791-3191. After normal working hours and on weekends, call 791-4144.

Down the road
  • Construction on West Valencia Road has begun. Crews have broken ground on widening, adding turn lanes and installing box culverts along the 2
  • ½
  • -mile stretch between Mark and Wade roads. Work is scheduled to go into summer 2016.
  • Also on the west side, work begins this week to extend South Camino Verde Road north to Valencia Road.
  • On the northwest side, representatives from Marana, Oro Valley, Pima County and the Regional Transportation Authority plan an update on the Tangerine Road corridor improvements. The open house is scheduled for Wednesday at 6 p.m. in the Oro Valley Council Chambers, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive.

The project includes widening the road to four lanes with landscaped medians and turn lanes between La Cañada and Dove Mountain Boulevard, as well as adding culverts, eliminating dips and making accommodations for pedestrian and bicycle traffic.

Contact reporter Patrick McNamara at 573-4241 or pmcnamara@tucson.com. On Twitter @pm929.