With windrows shrinking and snow ruts beginning to disappear, Brandon drivers will soon have something new to complain about — potholes.
And the perennial suspension destroyers have already emerged from under the snow.
But will this year be different? Will Brandon’s motorists smoothly sail into summer without the bone-crushing bumps that have plagued the city in years past?
The city’s maintenance department hopes so.
This spring is the first the city is using a new pothole patcher, which it anticipates will herald a new and faster way to reclaim Brandon’s roads from the ravages of spring thaw.
An asphalt reclaimer, which heats up recycled road surfaces, shingles and other materials, will allow crews to make a hot mix right beside the pothole, meaning, the city claims, a better bond with the pavement and reduced likelihood that traffic flow and the freeze and thaw cycle will open the hole again.
“We’re always under the gun for efficiencies, trying to make life easier for the public,” said Ian Broome, the city’s public works director.
“I think it’s going to be great.”
Until now, the city has been forced to wait for the asphalt plant to open, generally in May, and uses a less durable winter mix in the early months of spring to fill road craters.
“Our assumption is that we can go to a pothole now in the spring with hot mix and not go back four or five times,” Broome said.
“We’re hoping one or two times max.”
Manitoba Public Insurance has already received more than 200 claims relating to pothole damage in 2014 according to spokesperson Brian Smiley. The public insurer receives about 1,000 per year on average, the bulk of which come in during the spring.
While every driver is responsible to avoid potholes and drive to the conditions of the road, Smiley said every claim is reviewed on an individual basis.
He said the “adjuster will be asking very standard questions,” including if the driver saw the pothole or if they were aware it was there, if they were on a regular route and if the hole was filled with water or covered with ice and snow.
“In some situations, the driver will only pay their deductible and they will go on and have their vehicle repaired,” Smiley said. “In other cases, it’s determined by the adjuster that the driver took no evasive action to try and miss that pothole.”
Ed Higgs of Brandon Driving School said the easiest way to deal with potholes is also the most obvious.
“Slow down, slow down,” he said, “slow down completely and go nice and easy.”
While potholes are starting to pop up, Higgs said back-lane ruts are stubbornly sticking around.
“The ruts on some of the roads are just atrocious.”
“You go into a skid or something and you’ll lose control,” he said, “and young drivers have a tendency to panic when that happens and they hit the gas pedal instead of hitting the breaks.”
Meanwhile, in Winnipeg, where the city roads have rattled citizens to the core, a mayoral hopeful claimed he found the capital city’s solution, reported the Winnipeg Free Press on Saturday.
Pelletpatch, a hot-mix asphalt-patching compound that contains rubber from recycled tires, was taken for a testdrive with the company's New Jersey director of sales and mayoral candidate Mike Vogiatzakis, though Winnipeg hasn’t looked seriously into it yet.
» Twitter: @grjbruce
Potholes -- who’s at fault?
Hit a pothole in the next few weeks, and you could also be hit in the wallet for a few years to come.
That’s because while there are untold thousands of potholes littering Manitoba streets, there are only two possible outcomes to vehicle insurance claims submitted to Manitoba Public Insurance: being assessed at fault or not at fault.
And Brian Smiley, an Autopac spokesman, said that could hit you with extra insurance and driver’s licence costs in the future.
Smiley said on average, MPI receives about 1,000 claims annually for vehicles damaged by potholes.
Drivers are responsible for the deductible.
“The average case is $3,000,” Smiley said. “Typically, we see bent rims, blown-out tires, broken shocks and ball-joint damage. The damage caused by potholes is obvious.
“If the vehicle has a valid Autopac policy, we will pay out on that claim. If someone deliberately tries to do major damage to write it off, we will look at it further.”
But Smiley said just because MPI pays for the damage, it doesn’t mean there aren’t continuing financial ramifications for the vehicle owner.
Under the system MPI uses for determining insurance rates, called the driver safety rating (DSR), if your rating is 15 — the highest possible safety rating — your driver’s licence will cost $35 and you’ll receive a 33 per cent discount on your vehicle insurance.
» Winnipeg Free Press