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 Potholes: A never-ending problem for the Road Commission for Oakland County

The number of potholes on the 1,700-plus miles of paved county roads and 230 miles of state highways maintained by the Road Commission for Oakland County (RCOC) grows larger every year.

Potholes are a major problem in Michigan. Our older, deteriorated roads can no longer withstand the constant freeze-thaw climate. As a result, every year, our workers hand shovel more than 8 million pounds of patching material into potholes. Including labor, material, and vehicle usage, the annual pothole repair price tag is approximately $5 million.

Patches are made with a high performance patch material and can last for a year or more. Whenever possible, workers back or drive over new patches to compress them.

Although potholes become plentiful when warm spells interrupt a long period of cold weather, such as the "January thaw," the largest number of potholes normally crops up in the spring as frost comes out of the ground.

What causes potholes?

Potholes form when water flows into cracks, then freezes, expands, and pushes away the roadbed under the concrete or asphalt. When temperatures rise, the ice melts, leaving an unsupported gap that becomes a pothole whenever cars -- and especially trucks -- pass over.

Potholes cause severe damage to vehicles -- even accidents -- when drivers lose control after hitting them. The Michigan Department of Transportation estimates the average Michigan driver pays an extra $120 a year for road-caused damage, often from potholes.

New pothole technology

RCOC is constantly searching for new weapons in the endless fight against potholes. That's why we added a mini-fleet of "Hot Patcher" trailer units (traditionally, potholes have been filled with cold patch material) some years ago. Holding up to four tons of patching material, their self-contained heaters warm up the material, making for better and easier to apply patches -- and that means we can patch more potholes.

What can you do?

Our workers constantly patrol for -- and repair -- potholes. Citizens and law enforcement agencies also alert us.

Still, you can help. Large potholes, particularly if they are sharp-edged and could damage vehicles, should be reported for emergency response to the Department of Customer Services, (877) 858-4804. Or, if you'd like -- for NON-EMERGENCY SITUATIONS ONLY -- Contact Us and let us know where the problems are.

Pothole repair crews typically do not operate during rush hours, but whenever they are on the roads, traffic tie-ups occur. For your safety, and that of our workers, slow down and use caution when you encounter them (the law requires a 45 m.p.h. speed limit in any temporary, moving road work area).

Report a Pothole >>

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