Norfolk County

Potholes and the polar vortex

FRANKLIN, Mass. — First it was warm, then it was cold, then it was downright Arctic. But last weekend’s wild temperature swings didn’t do as much damage to the roads as they might have — because the fronts came with no moisture.

Brutus Cantoreggi, the director of Franklin’s Public Works Department, explained that water has to get into the asphalt to start a pothole. It then gets aggravated by traffic and sometimes snow plows.

“Behind snow removal, potholes are the second biggest thing,” Cantoreggi said. “It’s the easiest thing for residents to call and complain about and it’s a very manual-type task.”

Sweeping, shoveling and tamping are all required to repair a pothole. And there’s no telling how long a patch will last.

“Most of the patches, they could last a couple of weeks or they could last a couple of days, depending on the traffic, depending on the moisture, depending on the temperature,” Cantoreggi said.

This winter, patches seem to be lasting longer in Franklin. And they’re not becoming dislodged by plows — because there’s been barely any snow. But with six weeks of winter still ahead, Cantoreggi isn’t ready to declare victory over potholes.

“I feel we have job security,” he said. “There’s gonna be plenty of potholes out there.”

There are more than just “plenty” of potholes on Lake View Street in Worcester. The difference with Franklin — the city isn’t going to fill them.

Jay Fink, Worcester’s Commissioner of Public Works and Parks, explained that the pockmarked portion of Lake View Street is a private road.

“The city can’t expend public funds on a private way,” Fink said.

There’s a process by which abutters can get the street into the public realm — and thus have it maintained into perpetuity — but that will require it first be brought up to city street standards. That would require the four households living on the private section of the street to come up with thousands of dollars each for drainage work and repaving.

Kathy McDonald has lived on Lake View Street for 22 years. She says it’s always been in terrible shape.

“We pay all these taxes and the city won’t do anything,” McDonald said. “The whole street’s rotting away and the city won’t do anything.”

Indeed, the street is in terrible shape — with one, deep crater stretching across nearly the entire road. Vehicles driving down this section are forced to shimmy around the damaged section — lest they risk a popped tire.

And that is something that puzzles residents. If this is a private street, why is it open to the public?

“Buses, trucks, UPS, FedEx — all of ‘em,” said Antoine Ayoub, who’s lived in the neighborhood for more than ten years. “How’s it gonna be private? They just raised the tax $900 a year for what? They don’t plow my street, they don’t put salt, they don’t clean it, they don’t sweep it. So why did I pay extra in taxes for them doing nothing?”

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