Pothole problem a costly one for city: Long winter extra rough on streets | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Pothole problem a costly one for city: Long winter extra rough on streets

Susan Wood

Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / A vehicle splashes through a large pothole at the intersection of Eloise Avenue and Dunlap Drive.

California’s harsh winter has wreaked havoc on South Lake Tahoe-area roads, prompting public works officials to go into high gear on their annual wish lists of improvements come mid-May. Potholes have become a priority.

“There are more than usual because of the wet winter. The continuous storm cycle made it hard to keep up with them,” City Public Works Director Brad Vidro said Tuesday.

Within the city limits, motorists driving over the intersection of Dunlap Drive and Eloise Avenue can not only see but feel them. Most veer away to escape the alignment-jarring pothole that has formed there.

In a 25-minute period Tuesday morning, 15 vehicles swerved into oncoming traffic to avoid the 6-foot-wide dip that stretches across Eloise’s northeast lane.

Samantha Donaldson feared her sedan would skid through the area because the 6-inch deep hole fills up with water. It’s difficult to tell whether ice has formed over it.

“Everybody goes around it. I’m sick of it. They fixed it a few weeks ago, it snowed, then – nothing,” said Chris Fountain, who drives the street every morning on his way to his job at South Y Fireplace.

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He simulated a loud clunking to illustrate his point – much like someone trying to describe mechanical difficulties at an automobile repair shop.

Even a local truck driver for Emerald Bay Towing chose to go around.

“I don’t want to mess up my alignment,” Gary Iacopucci said.

Corey Anderson understands. The front-end specialist for Eloise Automotive has seen motorists bring their vehicles in for a realignment resulting from pothole damage – usually cumulative. At 25 mph, that intersection could knock a vehicle out of alignment. At 40 mph, rims could be bent.

“Most people don’t even notice tires wearing funny,” he said.

Many people are resigned to potholes as a fact of life in Tahoe.

“(They’re) always notorious this time of year,” maintenance worker Ron Sparks said. He knows. He drives Eloise frequently and realizes the patching material the city uses to make the repairs needs the right temperature to last.

There are other challenges to fixing the streets this summer.

The city road-repair budget has been shrinking. For example, a $1 million street overlay budget has been reduced to $200,000. The streets to receive repaving have not been determined, but the city may pave Sierra Boulevard.

Beyond periodic pothole repairs, other improvements include: a $450,000 multi-use trail on Lyons Avenue; curb and gutter projects at Gardner Mountain for $164,000, Sierra Tract for $1.5 million and Paradise Avenue for $60,000; and a $350,000 overflow parking lot for the El Dorado Beach boat ramp.

But the public works department is the first to admit that more needs to be done.

“Eventually, we’re going to need some kind of funding mechanism. Transportation ranks No. 1 in the public’s list of priorities,” Vidro said.

And Tom Celio, El Dorado County’s transportation head, is in the same boat.

Celio is working with a budget of $1 million – less than half what it was a year ago.

“Our priority is trying to get the best bang for our buck,” he said.

The list of county road projects won’t be laid out for a few weeks yet. But Celio said staff may recommend setting 15 miles of chip seal, a surfacing material, on the streets in the Glen Eagles Road area.

The job would amount to the equivalent of a 2-mile overlay.

Much of Caltrans work will focus on drains and auxiliary projects along highways 89 and 50. One exception – the state agency will start a resurfacing job in May on Highway 89 from the Alpine County line to Meyers. This could be the one job causing major traffic delays.

In addition to drain work on Highway 89, transportation workers intend to repair a slotted drain on Highway 50 near Rufus Allen Boulevard and an avalanche control gun mount near Meyers.