Hit a pothole in Fresno lately? There’s 600 million reasons why there’s no easy fix

Amid the onslaught of rainstorms hitting the Valley, maintenance crews face a problem that’s a headache for motorists and city officials alike — potholes.

Ugly and dangerous, potholes can wreak havoc on cars. But most of the city’s rough roads didn’t just suddenly appear during last week’s storms.

Fresno’s roads have about $600 million in deferred maintenance, according to Scott Mozier, director of public works.

“Potholes are a symptom of deeper problems in that the street is in need of repair,” he said. “We have streets in great need that are in south Fresno and also in north Fresno. Just because north Fresno may be newer, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have needs to it.”

Road pavement lasts about 20 years, so streets throughout the city are in need of updates.

It’s an issue local drivers have struggled with for many years.

“It’s always been bad here, ever since I was a kid,” said Pinedale resident Jeff Garcia, referring to the roadway at North College and West Minarets avenues.

Officials with Fresno’s public works department say the hardships caused by those pesky road craters aren’t lost on them.

Rainy weather typically causes trouble for roads, Mozier said, as water seeps into cracks and, combined with heavy truck traffic, causes the pavement to deteriorate.

During the wetter winter months, the city of Fresno’s public works department increases the number of crews that repair potholes from one or two to five, Mozier said.

Crews typically fill potholes within 24-48 hours after receiving a request. On weekends, it could take a little longer since crews only respond to emergency requests, he said.

Large potholes create a hazard for vehicles exiting the Jack in the Box at West Shaw and Crystal Avenues Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

“We have received a higher number of reports of potholes,” Mozier said. “We’re really reliant on the public to be our eyes and ears. If a pothole is reported, we will definitely be going out to fill it. We will not reject or decline any of those requests.”

Even on roads Mozier identified as in need of repair, Bee staffers found most potholes were filled in by Feb. 7 after the most recent round of storms that ended Feb. 5.

Problems for residents

Since 1978, Garcia’s lived in the same home, formerly owned by his parents, which he has remodeled. Recently, traffic has increased in his neighborhood.

Ever since the stoplight was put in at West Locust Avenue, Garcia said, drivers from Blackstone Avenue use Minarets to cut toward Ingram Avenue.

He has family that lives on the other side of town, near McKinley and West avenues. The road there has been “alligatored,” he said, meaning the cracks have been filled in and patched.

“They’ve been complaining for years,” he said about his family.

The Fresno Bee also asked readers on its Facebook page to report their experiences with potholes, and several responded.

Elizabeth Zayas Guardiola said a pothole caused $540 in damages to her vehicle after she had moved over for a tractor on a county road.

Anthony Booth wrote about the dangers that potholes present. “My car has autocorrect steering. If it detects a loss of traction it will brake on certain tires and nudge my steering in a direction to fix it,” Booth wrote. “Fun fact...these do not work in air so when I hit the ground my car goes crazy and can cause a crash.”

Nees Avenue, east of First St. shows need for repair Thursday, Feb. 7, 2019 in Fresno. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

More money for roads

Recently, city crews completed paving projects on Orange Avenue in southeast Fresno, Blackstone Avenue near Shaw Avenue and Bullard Avenue. Many projects are in the works for spring and summer, too. Jensen, Blackstone, Nees and Cedar avenues are all scheduled for repaving this year.

City officials also said they aggressively pursue federal, state and grant funding for road projects to fix not only potholes but other issues that impact aging roads.

The gas tax and Measure C money have boosted the city’s street repair budget to $20 million annually, which is right where the city should be, Mozier said.

“But it will take many years to really climb out of that hole of deferred maintenance,” he said.

If residents would like to report a pothole, call 559-621-CITY or download the FresGO mobile application.

To share your experiences with potholes, visit the Fresno Bee’s Facebook page.

Brianna Calix covers politics and investigations for The Bee, where she works to hold public officials accountable and shine a light on issues that deeply affect residents’ lives. She previously worked for The Bee’s sister paper, the Merced Sun-Star, and earned her bachelor’s degree from Fresno State.