After icy winter, Riverhead facing ‘worst’ pothole season in years

04/03/2015 10:00 AM |
A Riverhead highway crew begins patching up potholes along Sound Avenue Wednesday morning. The workers said this year is the worst they can remember. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A Riverhead highway crew begins patching potholes along Sound Avenue Wednesday morning. The workers said this year is the worst they can remember. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Hopefully, the suspension of your car is ready this spring because 2015 is shaping up to be the worst year for potholes in a long time.

“It’s twice as bad as I’ve ever seen it,” said Riverhead Highway Superintendent George “Gio” Woodson.

The town’s employees are scrambling to fill in potholes — large and small and numbering up to 5,000 — across town that were cratered in a snowy and frigid February, according to Mr. Woodson.

The crews are focusing on main roads first, moving to secondary roads and then finally streets in housing developments.

But as the warm weather returns in fits and starts, the roads are thawing and refreezing, Mr. Woodson said. The potholes the town highway department has patched are getting torn back up again.

“You try to patch the holes, but the water gets in them, and pulls the stuff right out of the road,” Mr. Woodson said. “It’s hard to contain that … All the work you did kind of gets washed out the window.”

Those potholes are already causing headaches for local drivers, and have proven to be dangerous, authorities said.

Last month, David DeCarle of Aquebogue struck a pothole while riding his motorcycle on Reeves Avenue.

Mr. DeCarle, the father to a baby boy, was thrown from the bike and later died. Weeks after the crash, potholes could still be found pockmarking Reeves Avenue near the scene of the accident.

The potholes have also lead to hundreds of dollars in damage for drivers.

According to town records, 10 drivers have filed notices with the town, claiming pothole damage in the past three months, from blown out tires to rim damage.

The claims range from roughly $100 to more than $530, with the majority coming in the last month, according to the records.

Most of the claims stem from damaging potholes on Sound Avenue, where highway crews were patching up the road Wednesday morning. It was their third outing on the road in recent weeks. Highway worker Joe Quinn plugged up a pothole with hot asphalt.

“I’ve never seen it this bad,” Mr. Quinn said.

“I don’t think you can even count ’em,” worker J.R. Renten agreed. “It’s a never-ending battle, but we’re trying.”

For some, the potholes represent a boom in business. John Gennaro, a manager at Phil’s Auto Truck and Repair in Riverhead, said the mechanics have seen a 30 percent jump in pothole damage from normal.

“Ball joints, suspensions, broken rims — the front ends are falling apart,” Mr. Gennaro said.

He said about half the vehicles that come into the shop are there for pothole damage.

Vehicles that have major front end damage can cost more than $1,000 to fix, he said. Even Mr. Gennaro isn’t immune from the potholes; he said he’s been dodging them in his pickup truck all winter.

It’s going to be even worse for motorcycle riders, he said. Mr. DeCarle’s death should be a wake-up call for motorcyclists to stay off the roads until they can be fully repaired, Mr. Gennaro said.

He owns a motorcycle himself, and says he’s been “itching to get out.” But he’s keeping his bike inside and bracing himself for the worst of the pothole season still ahead.

“I’m not going out there,” he said. “It’s going to be treacherous.”

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Cars slow down to dodge potholes on Warner Drive in Calverton. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Cars slow down to dodge potholes on Warner Drive in Calverton. (Credit: Paul Squire)

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