Wet weather and freezing temperatures are wreaking havoc on roads across the region, taking a toll on vehicles.
Drivers are forced to dodge potholes on both sides of the road for about half a mile on County Road 210 near Lake Nighthorse, said Trappers Crossing resident Howard Mulcahey.
“You got to swerve onto the shoulder to straddle them or you have to swerve into the middle,” he said.
The city of Durango, La Plata County government and the Colorado Department of Transportation are trying to make repairs, but wet weather could hinder progress in coming weeks, public officials said.
That means drivers will have to navigate potholes on Florida Road, 32nd Street, Colorado Highway 172, Wildcat Canyon Road (County Road 141) and many other area roads for the foreseeable future.
When drivers hit potholes, some find themselves headed to a mechanic.
For the past two weeks, McNeal’s Auto & RV Center has seen an increase in customers with blown tires, bent wheels and damaged shock absorbers, said owner Mike McNeal. The culprit: potholes.
“It’s destroying cars pretty good,” he said. He expects the higher demand to persist until roads are repaired.
Water freezing and thawing repeatedly in the cracks of roads is causing the potholes, said Greg Stacy, maintenance superintendent with CDOT.
“This is the dreaded freeze-thaw cycle that comes every late winter, early spring,” he wrote in an email to The Durango Herald. “Just as natural rock formations suffer erosion with this phenomenon, so are our roadways affected.
“We urge drivers to be diligent in watching the roadway for damage – slow down, in order to avoid damaged pavement,” he added.
CDOT staff are aware of potholes on U.S. Highway 160 from Elmore’s Corner to Walmart, Stacy said. Large potholes are also forming on U.S. Highway 160 west near the Giant gas station.
CDOT staff are working on repairs, but they won’t be able to make lasting repairs until the pavement dries, he said.
Some city of Durango roads have seen “pretty significant” damage from the winter weather, said Levi Lloyd, director of city operations. For example, North College Drive will need a large asphalt patch, he said.
However, asphalt plants do not operate in the winter, so the city plans to put in temporary patches until the plants open in mid-April, he said.
“Our winter patching process will be sort of a Band-Aid,” Lloyd said.
The city expects to have enough funding to repair the majority of road damage, Lloyd said.
Additional money from a half-cent sales tax increase that voters will consider in April would allow the city to do larger street reconstruction projects that would prevent streets from degrading as much in the winter, he said. Newer asphalt has more solar gain so the snow melts better and the surface is less porous, he said.
“Streets that are well-maintained and have a good surface on them are not susceptible to moisture infiltration,” Lloyd said.
All of La Plata County’s roads have some degree of damage because of the wet winter, said spokeswoman Megan Graham. Crews have been at work repairing them for about 30 days, she said.
Crews have identified county roads 210, 203, 250 and 240 (Florida Road) as high priorities for repairs, she said.
The county has also identified about $75,000 in guardrail repairs from vehicle crashes, she said. The county seeks restitution from responsible drivers, however, the county cannot wait for the restitution to start work, she said.
The county may have to delay some of its summer road maintenance, such as dust control, gravel resurfacing and chip and seal work, to fund repairs caused by winter storms, Graham said.
“The county has a structural imbalance revenue-wise, and the impacts of that are being felt in every area of the county, and road and bridge is certainly no exception,” she said.
To report potholes to the city of Durango, call 375-4839. To report potholes to La Plata County, call 382-6413.