CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Snow-weary drivers and cash-strapped road departments acrossWest Virginia and Virginia are facing a new challenge: an obstaclecourse of tire-popping potholes that threaten to knock thealignment out of tires and budgets alike.
Melting snow and ice from a barrage of winter storms that buriedparts of both states are revealing thousands of potholes.
"All you've got to do is drive down nearly any road in the stateand you see potholes," said Joe Deneault, chairman of WestVirginians for Better Transportation. "And it's only going to getworse as we come into spring."
The costs of repair couldn't come at a worse time for bothstates.
West Virginia has already spent nearly $3 million more than the$54 million budgeted for winter snow clearing, said West VirginiaDivision of Highways spokesman Brent Walker.
Virginia dipped into its reserves after exhausting its $79million budget, but still has about $28 million for asphalt andconcrete patching, said Virginia Department of Transportationspokesman Jeff Caldwell.
Both states plan aggressive pothole repairs once Mother Naturestarts cooperating.
"We are not going to hold back just because we are over budget,"Walker said. It's possible, though, that spring and summermaintenance, paving and mowing may take hits to get the state backon budget.
On Thursday, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell called for a "potholeblitz" in March, directing road crews to make patching up thepotholes a priority.
Despite the dangers and aggravations, some residents seem to betaking it in stride.
"What are you going to do about it?" asked Ken Lowe, an elevatorrepairman from Charleston. "Taxes are high enough already."
Henry Custer of Kanawha City chalked it up to life in WestVirginia.
"It's always that way," the retired insurance agent said.
Potholes form when moisture seeps into pavement and thenfreezes, expands and thaws. Then weakened pavement crumbles underthe weight of heavy trucks and cars.
This winter's unrelenting cold and storms has made it virtuallyimpossible for either state to make even temporary repairs.
Both states have been hammered by record-breaking, back-to-backstorms that dumped up to 3 feet of snow in some locations.
Caldwell said the frequent freeze-thaw cycle is creatingpotholes faster than crews can repair them.
Cold patches work in cooler temperatures, but require a drysurface, something that's rare this season in both states. The morepermanent hot mix patch requires consistent temperatures above 50degrees.
In Morgantown in northern West Virginia, Public Works DirectorTerry Hough said the inhospitable weather has left "some realdoozies."
"We just can't get to them and we end up with some monsterpotholes," she said.
Joanie Conley of Logan County said roads in the southern part ofWest Virginia are just as bad.
She was looking to spend between $365 and $600 for new tires andan alignment Thursday after her car hit a pothole "big enough toswallow you up."
"It's impossible to miss every hole," she said of her 65-milecommute to her Charleston nursing job. "There's lots of them, butmy car is not a luxury. I have to have it to work."
Deneault said West Virginia could help drivers by investing inbetter roads.
A transportation study his group commissioned last year foundthat rough roads cost each motorist an average of $280 annually inextra vehicle operating costs.
"I think what we're seeing is the effect of a lot of years ofinadequate funding," Deneault said. "We've gotten by because wehaven't had this kind of winter and now we're paying thepiper."
On the Net:
To report a pothole, visit www.VirginiaDOT.org or call800-367-7623 (ROAD).
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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