Indianapolis makes earlier switch to sturdier pothole fixer, increases DPW shifts

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Indianapolis residents have submitted 5,162 pothole service requests to the city so far this year. The Department of Public Works, which has completed 1,862 of those requests, hopes to catch up with the rest of them soon with a ramp-up announced Wednesday.

The DPW has made an earlier-than-usual switch from cold-mix asphalt to hot-mix asphalt and plans to increase hours for some employees to address the potholes, which have cropped up in increasing numbers over the last few weeks.

Potholes are created when water seeps beneath the pavement through cracks. As the temperature drops, the water freezes and expands, forcing the pavement to rise. As the ice melts, it creates an empty cavity beneath the pavement. When a vehicle drives over the cavity, the pavement collapses and creates a pothole.

In cold Indiana winters, workers rely on cold mix to patch the damage because hot mix doesn’t work effectively until outside temperatures approach 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But when compared to the preferred hot mix, cold mix is less durable and will often require additional repairs if used on heavily trafficked streets.

Hot mix provides a longer-term solution when patching city roadways. Applied at temperatures topping 180 degrees, the hot mix  adheres better to existing pavement and is more weather-resistant.

With hot mix, a crew member first pours tack into the pothole, providing a sticky surface for the mix to adhere to. Then, crews add the hot mix, which is mixed with bitumen, making it more pliable and adherent. Finally, another crew member tamps the hot mix to ensure it is level with the roadway.

This is the second year in a row in which the city has engaged with local asphalt plants to provide crews with early access to hot-mix asphalt. It works with companies including Rieth-Riley Construction Co. and Milestone Contractors. The DPW often has to wait until early to mid-March before it can switch to hot mix.

The DPW mobilized nearly 170 workers on patching crews for 10-hour shifts starting Wednesday. Repairs will be made first to major thoroughfares and later to residential streets.

AFSCME Local 725 President Steve Quick commended the crews, noting that these workers recently endured a harsh winter of overtime shifts to salt and ice the county’s roads.

“Our crews with Indy DPW are on the frontline of repairing these potholes, which is an extremely labor intensive and tiring process” Quick said.

The early arrival of hot mix asphalt will also enable contractors to begin strip-patching on some Marion County roads. Strip patching involves the removal and replacement of the top layer of asphalt. This ultimately leaves fewer cracks in the road, which can prevent more potholes throughout the year.

In 2023, the city received 16,849 pothole service requests and fulfilled 17,697 (the fulfillment number included holdover cases from the previous year). In total, the city filled 324,594 potholes last year.

Last month, the DPW used nearly 400 tons worth of cold mix, resolving nearly 1,000 service requests, and filling around 20,000 potholes.

Potholes can be reported through the Mayor’s Action Center by calling 317-327-4622 or online through Request Indy.

The city plans to spend $1.2 billion on capital infrastructure projects over the next five years. The 2024 budget also a one-time allocation of $25 million specifically for neighborhood streets and $2 million for alleyways.

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8 thoughts on “Indianapolis makes earlier switch to sturdier pothole fixer, increases DPW shifts

  1. That would just further involve him in local government issues, and give him cause to write a new bill to regulate how Indianapolis handles pot hole filling. Let’s just keep him out of this…

  2. It sounds like they only get fixed if you request it. I just assumed busier streets would be checked by them, but good to know that you have to report them.

  3. who you gonna call?
    If there’s something strange
    In your neighborhood
    Who you gonna call?
    (Ghostbusters)
    If there’s something weird
    And it don’t look good
    Who you gonna call?

    GHOST BUSTERS…

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