Members of the 375th Civil Engineer Squadron repair a pothole at Scott Air Force Base. In Sierra Vista, public works crews work to prevent and repair roads as quickly as possible, said City Engineer Jing Luo.

SIERRA VISTA — City Engineer Jing Luo recently talked with the Herald/Review about why potholes form, what you can do to report them, and what Sierra Vista Public Works does to respond.

Why do potholes form?

A pothole is an erosion of part of a roadway that leaves a hole where the asphalt has been broken away. Luo said that a combination of stress on the roadway from traffic and weather fluctuations creates cracks that lead to the potholes.

“The pothole usually forms because of the deterioration of the asphalt, and stormwater gets into the cracks and further damages the road’s aggregate, or base. Usually the deterioration happens due to heat here, but in cold places it will be from freezing, the expansion and contraction of the surface creates cracks.”

Potholes are a widespread issue during spring — and for this area, during monsoon — from the changes between the heat of the day and the cold of night. During winter, as water gets in cracks and freezes at night, it expands, weakening the road when the sun melts the ice during the day and the road contracts. Luo explains that the trapped water can cause issues even if it isn’t cold enough at night to freeze. “Once you have a storm, water gets stuck in the cracks with nowhere to go and it erodes it from underneath.”

How can I report potholes I find? What is done about them?

Depending on the location of the pothole, there are a few ways to report the problem.

“There are three scenarios I can think of,” Luo said. “The first is the pothole is in the city right-of-ways, the city streets. For those you can call Public Works, or the other way to report that is the city’s website, and you type in your concern and PIO office will send it to the right person.”

“The second scenario is it’s on private property, such as a company on a private street. For that I would recommend going through Community Development. It’s the private property owners’ responsibility to fix those, Public Works can’t go fix it. If you go through Community Development we can patch the message to the private property owners, but we are not going to go do it, just try to make sure they do it.”

“The third scenario is ADOT, for highways. They have a website form like the city for inquiry and complaints that they monitor.”

What do I do if I find a pothole and am not sure which department to call?

If you are unsure of whether the pothole is on a city road, private road, or state highway, Luo recommends contacting Sierra Vista Public Works to report it. She also encourages people to report the problem to Public Works in addition to the other appropriate agency if they do know what kind of location it is so Public Works can follow-up with the other agency on the issue.

“Most neighborhoods are by the city,” she clarifies, “but there are some private sections that are special. However, most are public roads. The best way to find out is to call Public Works to report and I do encourage people to let us know regardless, we can also call the right maintenance group and ask them to expedite it. So call us, regardless of the type of roadway if it’s within city limits, because we want our streets safe travelling anywhere in the city.

Are potholes a big issue in Sierra Vista?

“It’s certainly much better compared to Tucson and other big communities with the years of heat and lack of maintenance. I like to tell our staff to take preventative action and handle things proactively,” Luo said. “We can only work within the city right-of-ways but we still have a lot of streets within city limits.”

“We did some crack filling this past fiscal year and keep up — the best way to practically prevent potholes is fill the cracks that lead to them. We do as much as possible but do still get some calls, and if they happen to be in the city we send the crews to fix it as quick as possible before it gets worse. If it doesn’t impact property owners it’s an easy fix and we can get it quickly, but it can get more tricky if there are other factors. We still handle those relatively quickly, usually within weeks rather than months.”

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