Philly Says It Will Fill a Reported Pothole in Three Days

It's pothole season, but don't fret: Once Philadelphia gets a pothole report, the Streets Department fills it in three business days.

Philadelphia pothole filler

Photo | Dan McQuade

It’s headed to the 50s on Friday, and it’s going to be in the 40s and 50s next week, too. Let’s cross our fingers and hope it’s really the end of winter.

But the end of winter means the start of another season, and not spring: It’s pothole season in Philadelphia. As of yesterday, the city had already filled more than 12,000 potholes on its streets this year. The Streets Department’s pothole filling crews will be busy this year. That’s not because this pothole season is going to be particularly worse than others — it’s still too early to tell — but because there hasn’t been as much time to fill potholes this winter.

“Last year there were breaks between the storms,” said Steve Lorenz, Chief Highway Engineer for the Streets Department. “This year, we never had a chance to get the crews out there to do any pothole repairs. It was one [weather] event after the other. When we didn’t have an event, it was just so cold out there was not much we could do.” Lorenz said many pothole repairs this winter were done with cold patch — a temporary solution. As of Monday, the Streets Department had filled 9,000 potholes. Last year at this time, 20,000 had been filled. It’s not that the roads were worse after last winter; the weather just hasn’t cooperated in 2015.

But check those figures. Between Monday’s figures and the current total, the city filled more than 3,000 potholes. The Streets Department works pretty fast. When the city gets a pothole report, Lorenz says it normally will send out a crew within three business days. (This could stretch another day this time of year when there’s a backlog, or if there are adverse weather conditions like rain that prevent crews from working.)

The Streets Department fills potholes in two ways. New Jersey’s Department of Transportation this year have been touting a state-of-the-art pothole filler this year; Philadelphia has two of those. Lorenz says the machines have been around for about 10 years. Those “pothole killers” can fill a pothole in as little as a minute. They could be operated by a one-man crew, but Lorenz says the Streets Department uses two in case the apparatus that fills the potholes gets clogged. “It’s still better than having a four- or five-man crew out there,” Lorenz says.

Philadelphia still uses those five-man crews to fill potholes this time of year, due to demand. That’s done the old fashioned way with the crew applying hot patch to the pothole. As temperatures rise and pothole reports lessen, crews are dispatched to fix other road problems — ditches (temporary road fill-ins done by workers after making underground repairs) and cave-ins (sinkholes) — while the pothole killers handle all the potholes. (The larger crews will still fill in potholes they come across.)

But at all times of the year, the city usually fixes potholes in three business days once it gets a report. But that first part is usually on you. Potholes can be reported on or by calling 215-686-5560 or 311. Next time you ride over a pothole, don’t get angry. Get on the phone and get it fixed.

Earlier This Week: This Is Why Philly Roads Are So Rotten