Potholes perennially plague the Lake Tahoe Basin | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Potholes perennially plague the Lake Tahoe Basin

There is an enormous pothole on Harrison Avenue that could be named Lake Tahoe Jr. It is an unescapable road hazard for drivers who go past Rojo’s, Sierra Veterinary Clinic, The Video Library, Al Tahoe Liquor Mart and Port of Subs.

Aziz Fattahian, general manager of the liquor store, has watched the small string of potholes grow into one gaping hole. He receives sarcastic remarks from customers about the size of the puddle, but doesn’t think it is a laughing matter for the community.

“Cleanliness is really important for tourists,” Fattahian said, “We try to keep the store as clean as possible.”

“(Potholes) are out of control,” said LeeAnne Jarrett, an employee at Video Library. “People think that (Harrison Avenue) is a cute little parking area that they can just whip through and then they hit the pothole.

“The county says it will spend all this money (to repave roads) and that it will last five years,” Jarrett said, adding that last summer’s repairs haven’t even lasted through this winter. “I don’t think the county is interested in in doing anything about it. I think most people don’t complain because they know there is no use. I’d like to see something done about it.”

Harrison Avenue is a road that has become like a private parking lot and the city hasn’t been responsible for its condition for years, said Brad Vidro, city of South Lake Tahoe engineer. Vidro doesn’t know if it is in writing anywhere, but said it is the business owners’ responsibility to maintain the street.

“I would never let a road get like that,” said Scott Rogers, street superintendent for the city of South Lake Tahoe.

“We try to be really responsive (to calls),” he added. “We like to be notified.”

Rogers and his staff of 18, work around the clock in 12-hour shifts. They are only responsible for areas that fall within city limits and send crews out as soon as they become available. When Pioneer Trail crosses city limits at Al Tahoe Boulevard, El Dorado County jurisdiction kicks in.

“The highway is taken care of completely by the state,” Rogers said.

His staff keeps a running list of their repairs and areas that are most susceptible to damage.

During the winter, potholes are filled with a temporary cold mix, which is made with kerosene. It stays pliable so that it can be easily removed for permanent repair in the summer. There is a street overlay program that is on a 30-year cycle. Rogers said that most roads, however, will deteriorate in 10 to 15 years.

A lot of the roads were put down before base rock (a design of aggregate that is a road’s foundation), Rogers said.

“Some of the roads are sitting in areas where there probably shouldn’t be roads,” he added.

California roads are pretty hideous, said Walt Wimsett, who assesses collision damage at South Side Auto Body. “We drive through Nevada and they’re on top of it,” he added.

Sedans are the cars most susceptible to pothole damage due to their low ground clearance, Wimsett said. Four-wheel-drive vehicles have a higher ground clearance, but aren’t immune to suspension problems. And no matter what you drive, “potholes are definitely hard on tires,” he said. If a car’s alignment is thrown out of whack it will in turn wear out the tires.

If a car hits a deep groove in the road “it can take the lower arm of the car and bend it back,” Wimsett said, adding that it could cost thousands of dollars to fix.


To lessen the impact from potholes, American Auto Association offers these tips:

n When driving on damaged roads, slow down. If it is safe to do so, maneuver your vehicle around the potholes.

n If a pothole cannot be avoided, try to roll through it slowly rather than braking rapidly. A wheel sustains more damage when it is locked than when it is rolling forward.

n Make sure tires are properly inflated. Too much air pressure increases the risk of tire damage from pothole impact, while too little pressure increases the risk of wheel damage. Check your owner’s manual for proper tire pressure.

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