Updated 3:11 p.m.
It’s a scary time to be a driver in Pittsburgh. And no, it’s not because the city’s motorists consistently rank among the worst in the country, or because road construction and delays remain something of a pastime here — although both are true.
No, driving in Pittsburgh right now is scary because of these:
In short, this yo-yo-like winter has left city roads in a sorry state, and these yawning asphalt chasms are everywhere — and we mean everywhere.
From the San Andreas-like fissure running up Penn Avenue in Lawrenceville to the frack-ready holes lining East Ohio Street to the minefield that is East Carson; potholes are bad this year and our cars — and lumbars — are suffering.
If you, like me, have had the heart-stopping experience of hitting one of these potholes at night and immediately jumping from your car to search for what you wrongly assumed was a pedestrian’s body — or if you’ve grown accustomed to driving mostly in the oncoming lane — then you know this as well as anyone.
Luckily, the city is on it — at least depending on where you’re sitting or, maybe more crucially, where you’re driving.
Last month, Pittsburgh crews set out to fill dozens of potholes in what the city called a three-day pothole blitz.
According to the Post-Gazette, the city Department of Public Works knew of some 300 potholes at the time and sought the public’s help finding more. (We’re sure the public was happy to oblige.)
But Allegheny County reports 130 requests for pothole repairs at just two months into 2018. That’s compared to 309 in all of 2017, 123 in 2016 and 603 in 2015.
“We are expected to get rain over the next few days and are watching the forecast hereafter for a period of days to allow DPW to go out,” Keyva Clark, spokesperson with Mayor Bill Peduto’s office, told The Incline on Tuesday. “In the meanwhile, weather permitting, crews will be filling potholes day and night.”
But while all of this is surely vexing, it’s not that unusual.
Potholes are a fixture in this part of the world, especially after a winter like this one, with dramatic swings in temperature that cause groundwater under the pavement to expand and contract.
In Pittsburgh, potholes are so commonplace that they’ve even inspired their own guide — sort of. Same goes for New York City, where a prankster recently filled some of that city’s problem potholes with actual plants — welcome to the YouTube era. And this year’s bizarre winter has resulted in similar issues from Memphis to Baltimore — where one newspaper editorial wondered if the city’s potholes were the real reason it didn’t make Amazon’s HQ2 shortlist.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) confirms the spring 2018 pothole outlook is bleak, with potholes cropping up unusually early this year.
“Collectively, Americans will spend $3 billion to repair damages to their vehicles caused by hitting a pothole,” a news release from the association reads. “The freeze-thaw cycle is behind all this mayhem.”
In the Pittsburgh area, PennDOT agrees and says this year has been a particularly bad one — already.
“It’s taken a real toll on the roadways this year, more severe than the last couple of years,” PennDOT County Maintenance Manager Jason Zang recently told WPXI.
Meanwhile, as crews continue to patch the holes during breaks in inclement weather, Pittsburgh area drivers will continue to brace for impact and tweet about experiences like this.
How to report a pothole
Pittsburgh residents can call 311 (or call the city’s 311 center at 412-255-2621) to report potholes.You can also tweet at @PGH311. Including an address for the pothole is helpful to DPW.