Feb 6, 2024 - News

Pothole patching season is back

Illustration of an animated video-game car avoiding two potholes, then crashing into a third.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

As Swiss cheese streets wage war on your wheel alignment, Indianapolis officials say they're getting a jump on the growing pothole problem.

Driving the news: Asphalt plants will open early to supply the Department of Public Works with the hot mix needed to more permanently patch the thousands of potholes barraging local roads.

  • Indy DPW Director Brandon Herget says plants that typically get rolling near the start of spring opened on Feb. 10 last year, and are expected to do the same this year.

Why it matters: Potholes are multiplying by the day, and the temporary cold mix the city relies on before asphalt plants reopen isn't cutting it.

Of note: Each request for service may include multiple potholes.

What's happening: Pothole counts began to climb when the frigid conditions in mid-January gave way to the unseasonably warm weather we're enjoying now.

  • Potholes form when water from melted snow seeps into the road pavement. When that water freezes, it expands and raises the concrete.
  • Roads shift and contract as it gets warmer, creating gaps between the pavement and ground that result in road damage when impacted by vehicles.
  • Potholes typically don't form until March when the weather warms up.

By the numbers: Since September, the city has received more than 6,400 pothole repair requests. More than 2,770 pothole cases have been closed.

  • Herget said in 2023 crews filled more than 300,000 individual potholes.

How it works: To report a pothole, contact the Mayor's Action Center at 317-327-4622 or go online.

  • Officials say it can take as long as a week and half for requests to be closed, and weather plays the biggest factor in repair timing.

💭 My thought bubble: When this time of year rolls around, the argument over which city has the worst potholes always seems to turn into a bizarro battle for bragging rights. Particularly among Midwesterners. If you ask my big sister, our hometown of Cleveland still takes the cake.

  • But crowning a supreme pothole ruler is tricky as every municipality complies pothole data differently.
  • Last year, Lending Tree-affiliated website QuoteWizard ranked Indiana fourth worst for pothole problems. USA Today ranked Indiana 5th worst in a similar 2023 analysis.

Be smart: If one of these craters takes out one of your tires, don't bank on the city covering the tab. IndyStar reports that from 2017 to 2021, just 3% of all pothole damage claims were awarded settlements.

  • For the city to be held responsible, claimants must provide proof that the city was aware of the pothole and had a "reasonable opportunity" to patch it.

We want to know: Where are Indy's most gnarly potholes? Email [email protected] and send us your nominations.

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