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POTHOLE PLAN: Duluth tackles ‘exceptionally bad’ year for potholes

UPDATE– We’ve gone from the winter with a lot of snow, and challenges with plowing, right to flooding and pothole season. That’s why City leaders called a news conference Thursday laying out their plans to address what’s being called “an exceptionally bad year” for potholes.

Thursday on Park Point some roadways became an extension of Lake Superior.

“Park Point’s a challenge for us because it’s real flat, and the storm sewers are at this point at or below lake level. So it’s draining, but it’s draining very slowly.”

But despite flooding around the city, officials assure people that generally, the main drains are open, and flowing.

“In the past, we have had to talk about overflow and things not working well, and so there are a lot of systems that we’ve worked on over the years that are really working well,” said Mayor Emily Larson.

And if flooding wasn’t a big enough problem, add potholes to the list. Really, big potholes.

“I would say this is an exceptionally bad year,” said Jim Benning with the Duluth Public Works and Utilities Department.

Duluth’s street maintenance crews are trying to keep up as best they can, patching potholes with “cold mix.”

“Which is a temporary mix that remains pliable in the cold weather. It’s a good temporary fix,” said Benning.

This mix is for larger potholes. They’re not bothering with smaller ones unless they become really bad. And there’s likely plenty more bad to come because there’s likely a lot more winter weather to come.

“The more snow we have the more plows we put on the road, more often that those plows are pushing their blades on that asphalt and popping up what were previously good patches,” said Benning.

One area City leaders will pay extra attention to is Lake Avenue from the Aerial Lift Bridge to the “S-curve” along Park Point.

“That road is in pretty bad shape. It needs something more than pothole patching whether that’s temporary or permanent,” said Benning.

Until then, officials have this advice for drivers:

“When you’re driving down the road, [you might ask] ‘is it a pothole or is it a puddle?’ You’ll probably find out depending on how fast you drive over that. If you’re unsure, slow down,” said Benning.

City leaders urge everyone to call in large potholes or drainage problems to the city.

DULUTH, MN – Duluth city leaders laid out their plans Thursday afternoon to address what’s being called “an exceptionally bad year” for potholes.

Jim Benning, director of the Public Works and Utilities Department, said he doesn’t know the exact reason why the potholes seem to be worse this season, but he pointed to February’s excess snow and snow plow blades pushing on the asphalt as possible culprits.

Duluth’s street maintenance crews are currently patching potholes with “cold mix,” which is a temporary mix that remains pliable in the cold weather.

“It’s a good temporary fix,” Benning said. “We use it for our largest potholes, but the smaller potholes, we’re not going to bother doing those unless they become very aggravated.”

For a more permanent fix, Benning said they’re waiting for the hot mix plants to open up in mid-May. He said by that time, the potholes will have dried out, which makes the “hot mix” more effective.

“When mid-May roles around, we’ll hit the whole city hard,” Benning said.

Park Point is one particular area Benning said is dealing with some of the worst conditions this season. As of this week, he said the city has plans to reconstruct Lake Avenue from the Aerial Lift Bridge to 13th Avenue possibly beginning this summer.

“It needs something more than pothole patching, whether it’s temporary or permanent,” Benning said.

Thursday afternoon, Park Point was also dealing with flooding, an issue city leaders said is elevated in a flat area with storm sewers that are at or below lake level.

Other Duluth neighborhoods, including Fond du Lac and Gary New Duluth, were also flooding Thursday. City of Duluth stormwater coordinator Chris Kleist said, “generally, the main drainages are open and flowing.”

One company KBJR 6 spoke with said their phones had been ringing “off the hook” Thursday as they worked to assist people with flooded basements.

Duluth residents are asked to report large potholes or drainage concerns to the city by calling 218-730-5100 or the city web page, where they’ve added a new drainage and flooding reporting option.

In order to avoid damage to vehicles in the mean time, Benning said people should slow down and drive carefully. He also asked community members to adopt a catch basin to help with flooding issues.


DULUTH, MN — City officials say they will be holding a news conference Thursday afternoon regarding street maintenance ahead of the upcoming warm weather.

The conference will also provide an update on snow melting and water related matters, and where the city is at with operations.

We’ll have the latest on the conference tonight at 6.

Krystal Frasier

Social Media and Digital Content Manager

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