Feb 27, 2024 - Transit

Potholes plague Portland streets post-winter storm

A photo of a street with two cars crossing in an intersection and a pothole prominent in one of the lanes.

A pothole on the corner of NE Ainsworth Street and Vancouver Avenue. Photo: Meira Gebel/Axios

Hundreds of new potholes have opened up on Portland roadways as the city grapples with the continuing fallout from last month's winter storm.

Why it matters: Potholes plague every corner of the city — they're eyesores, can cause significant damage to vehicles and pose danger to pedestrians, and cost Portland thousands of dollars to fix annually.

State of play: The Portland Bureau of Transportation has five pothole crews, up from the agency's normal two crews, "out addressing the numerous potholes that have formed after the storm," Dylan Rivera, a spokesperson, told Axios.

  • PBOT tries to fill reported potholes within 30 days, but "after a period of snow or ice, when we see a flurry of potholes, it may take on the later side of that period," Rivera said.

How it works: Water from melted snow or ice enters cracks in the asphalt and freezes in the ground underneath, expanding, raising and weakening the concrete.

  • Roads then shift and contract after it gets warmer, creating gaps between the pavement and the ground, making them more vulnerable to impact by vehicles.
Data: Portland Bureau of Transportation; Chart: Axios Visuals

By the numbers: An Axios analysis of PBOT pothole data found the following:

  • In January, 1,966 potholes were reported — a significant increase from the 903 reported during the same 31-day period the year before.
  • So far this February, PBOT has received 1,622 pothole reports, up from 613 the same month last year.

It costs an average of $300 to fill a single pothole, according to Rivera. That includes the work of crews in the field, customer service staff fielding reports from the public, and maintenance of the agency's interactive map.

The intrigue: Over 50 miles of gravel streets are not maintained by the city, and therefore can be in pretty bad shape, according to local residents.

  • In Woodstock, nearby construction and heavy cement trucks passing through have resulted in a series of large potholes between SE 49th and 50th avenues, which locals refer to as "Lake Carlton" — referring to the street's namesake.
  • Neighbors have seen multiple accidents and broken-down vehicles due to the growing problem.

The other side: Potholes are not only damaging to cars. They can cause serious harm for pedestrians and cyclists, too, Sarah Iannarone, director of The Street Trust, a transit advocacy nonprofit, told Axios.

  • Iannarone pointed to a new study that found the force of hitting a pothole for someone on a bicycle is the equivalent of suddenly being forced to manage more than 600 additional pounds.
  • "What might feel slightly uncomfortable or even cause extensive damage to a car or truck can seriously injure or kill even the most skillful cyclists," she said.

Do your part: Report potholes here or by calling (503) 823-1700.

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