New Canaan’s highway crews are repairing 700-plus potholes brought on by the wet, cold winter that officially ends at 6:45 p.m. Friday—a season that public works officials are calling “brutal.”
The Department of Public Works will need to secure an additional $200,000 to fix town roads damaged so severely that entire sections of asphalt need to be replaced, officials told the Town Council on Thursday night.
And it isn’t just roads, the sidewalks downtown have heaved dramatically, such an area near Starbucks that’s moved four or five inches, while handicapped and pedestrian ramps also have lifted themselves, DPW Assistant Director Tiger Mann said.
“We’ve had a lot of damage around town,” Mann said at the council’s regular meeting, held in the Sturgess Room at New Canaan Nature Center. “We do not feel the damage is done yet. We feel the frost is not out of ground yet and we have not got the wet weather yet. So once we get some wet weather with frost still in the ground, we’re going to get some more damage, say, late-March, early-April.”
The matter arose during the DPW’s capital budget request for fiscal year 2016. Chairman Bill Walbert asked Mann and DPW Director Michael Pastore to clear up some confusion around what appeared to be relatively little funds dedicated to pothole repair.
In fact, the DPW uses its own employees to fill in and fix potholes in-house, so only the relatively inexpensive materials costs ($80 to $90 per ton) rather than labor costs, are showing up on the line item, Mann said.
Councilmen also asked whether New Canaan has seen potholes on newly paved roads such as Laurel (cracks yes, potholes no) and whether state officials are aware of the potholes on Routes 106, 123 and 124 (yes, though they’re less responsive).
Vice Chairman Steve Karl whether more damage appears to be occurring near the edges of the roads near the curbs.
Mann replied that yes, the shoulder is the weakest portion of the road and most susceptible to damage from frost.
Asked whether this is the worst that DPW has ever seen, Mann replied: “This is a bad winter. We feel collectively that it probably set us back three or four years overall. We just had a road on Welles Lane that just literally exploded. A contractor’s vehicle went through there with a trailer on it and we had a frost and he shattered it.”
As a result, Welles Lane moved up in priority in terms of road repair, Mann said.