March: when it can be nearly 80 degrees one day and under 40 degrees the next. And in Arlington, the month marks the start of pothole filling and street repaving season.
There are 1,059 lane miles of roadway in Arlington County, and every March, the Arlington Department of Environmental Services launches its effort to fill in potholes caused by winter freezes and repave about 7-8% of roads.
The 2022 repaving season is kicking off with fewer pothole service requests while DES aims to repave 74 lane miles of road, spokesman Peter Golkin tells ARLnow.
This goal is about on-pace with the number of miles the department has repaved in recent years, according to data from DES.
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) March 8, 2022
But first, crews are attending to the potholes. Street repaving will begin later this month.
“March is generally the unofficial start of the pothole filling season as winter storm weather recedes and staff can focus on road conditions rather than storm response,” Golkin said.
So far, county crews have filled 462 potholes, of which 360 were filled in February, he says. Meanwhile, there have been about 254 pothole service requests filed by residents since Jan. 1, according to data from the county.
The number of potholes on local roads has generally declined over the last five years due in part to milder winters, compared to the colder, harsher winters in years past that caused thousands of potholes. The winter of 2019 broke that downward trend with more than 5,100 potholes, however.
“2019 stands out for a 10-inch snow event and about a dozen events total whereas the past couple of years have been much milder,” Golkin said.
This year also saw a few winter storms and extended bouts of freezing temperatures, which precipitated hundreds of water main breaks in Arlington. But the “historically snowy January” gave way to a mild February and — overall — a milder than normal winter for the sixth time in the past seven years, according to the Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang.
But potholes are not just declining because of weather, says the county’s sewers and streets bureau spokesman. Another factor is the county’s stepped-up repaving schedule over the last eight years.
“As the County invests more in paving and the overall street Pavement Condition Index (PCI) increases, the overall number of pothole fill requests trend downward,” Golkin said.
The index increased from a low of 67 out of 100 in 2014 — the result of years of anemic repaving rates — to 80.2 in 2020. Arlington achieved this lift after tripling the number of annual road miles paved.
Now, the county aims to repave 72 to 75 lane miles every year in order to maintain a score between 75 and 80, per the adopted 2021-22 fiscal year budget.
Road users can expect this work to start later this month and to continue through early fall.
“Paving season traditionally runs from the end of March to the end of September, but weather and contractor availability can push things back,” Golkin said. “A segment of planned paving may be shifted to another year for various reasons including nearby new utility work or a construction project nearby that’s fallen behind schedule.”
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