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Pothole headaches: Woodbury streets wearing out faster than anticipated

Potholes can be seen all over Woodbury roads, where asphalt isn't holding up as long as predicted. Staff photo by Riham Feshir

They seem to pop up every spring, but the tough winter combined with a faulty mix of materials may be causing a more than normal number of potholes this year.

Some of the asphalt designs that were used 25 years ago on Minnesota roads don't seem to be holding up; they are decaying sooner and more widespread in Woodbury.

Since Woodbury has a number of young streets built around that time, that "blacktop recipe" is making city engineers rethink the roadway rehabilitation plan and timeline.

"We had a whole bunch of streets built in the 1990s era when the mixed design was kind of the standard around the cities," said Klayton Eckles, Woodbury's engineering and public works deputy director. "All the cities are experiencing it but Woodbury has a lot of streets built in that era."

Neighborhoods in the central part of the city developed in the late 1980s and early 1990s between Woodbury and Radio drives is where the problem is most prevalent.

Woodbury engineers rate streets every year to keep track of their conditions. After getting good results consistently, those built with the faulty mix are now getting a "very poor" rating, Eckles said.

Those early mixtures were "first-generation recycle" that engineers suspect were not as good as they could've been.

"We like to see our streets last 25 years or more," Eckles said. "We're seeing some of the roads that are only 15 to 20 years (old) -- they're starting to see significant distress."

A study released in April by the Minnesota Department of Transportation found that the blacktop is too porous, letting water seep into it, causing those shallow potholes.

Eckles, who serves on a committee associated with the research, said the next step is to find out exactly what led to the problem.

So far, he believes the recycled material is at fault, but it could be something else.

The city has a five-year street rehabilitation plan that lays out what streets will be reconstructed in the next few years.

The plan did not include roads that are experiencing many of those shallow potholes.

"What we'll be working on over the summer is a grand plan to manage the potholes and also probably accelerate some of the rehabilitation projects to get some of these areas cleaned up," Eckles said. "It'll be a major initiative."

The city will prioritize which potholes to address first, keeping safety in mind, then deal with the big picture later, he added.

Once engineers understand the full scope of the issue, the city will have to make some budget adjustments to accommodate for additional construction to fix the streets.

"Everyone needs to know that it's a major issue that emerged very quickly with the severe weather that we had," Eckles said. "This particular year, we saw rapid or widespread failure."

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.