National Pothole Day - how we are fixing the roads

National Pothole Day has come at a time when Oxfordshire’s roads have endured a deluge of snow, ice and water meaning that there’s even more work than before for our road team to do.

The regular freeze and thaw, coupled with some wet weather and regular use by traffic, means that road surfaces have taken a battering resulting in a jump in defect reports on Fix My Street. In 2017 there were around 2,200 reports per month on average, but so far in 2018 we have seen this rise to 7100 a month. ‘Defects’ also include potholes, damaged signs and streetlights.

As well as the usual wear and tear freeing weather brings there are also a number of locations where frozen water pipes have raptured causing damage - this is repaired by the utility company.

The county council has put more people out on the roads carrying out inspections and our contractors, Skanska, are putting more teams out to carry out the repairs.

But how are potholes actually fixed?

There are four main ways in which roads can be repaired. But before they are fixed they need to be assessed.

Between the start of January 2018 and 20-Feb-2018 more than 3,510 potholes have been identified and repaired - A further 2,365 have been identified and are pending repair.

In many cases when you report a pothole it will be inspected and, if action is needed, a mobile team will visit and fill it in so that it is made safe. It is a quick and simple way to ensure holes are filled, but often not permanent.

In response to customer feedback the county council has relaxed it approach of only doing “Saw-Cut” repairs on A&B roads. On non-A&B roads, where the surrounding road surface and structure is sound, consideration will be given to using this technique rather than “sweep and fill” to repair the pothole. This approach will look neater and should last longer. It is not appropriate and not good use of council funds to use this approach where the surrounding road is in poor condition though.

If you travel on rural roads you may also have seen that larger patches of road have been repaired. This will have been done by one of Oxfordshire’s “Dragons”. These innovative machines roam the county’s country roads finding and fixing potholes by drying the hole out with it’s flame-thrower before spraying in bitumen and chippings leaving behind a waterproof fix.

Often when people think of roadworks they are thinking of resurfacing. The budgets made available to the council by government only allow a limited amount of resurfacing each year however, and therefore the council necessarily needs to balance this larger maintenance with fixing individual potholes to ensure that the highway network remains safe.

Resurfacing of stretches of road is the most costly but effective solution to worn and crumbling road surfaces. The county council, as is the case across the country, is able to do only a limited number of these projects.

More money for patching

The county council has just received an extra £1m in funding from the Department for Transport in recognition of damage done to the roads by bad weather. This money will be used in the spring when the weather is better for more comprehensive patching – relatively small areas of resurfacing that take care of potholes and other underlying problems.

The county council is also looking at new and innovative ways of fixing potholes in a bid to get better value for money and longer lasting repairs, as well as closer working with parish councils and the public to identify road repair priorities.

Tell us about problems that you find

County Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet member for Environment and Economy, said: “The public is rightly concerned about the state of the roads in Oxfordshire and this has been reflected in a big increase in reports they are making on Fix My Street.

“We want people to report any problems that they find so that, along with information from our own inspections, we can prioritise the right repairs quickly.

“Clearly the extra money from the DfT is welcome but the rise in reports of potholes on our roads indicates that there is a case for more government funding to tackle the problems on our roads.”