Interstate pothole sidelines four vehicles at once as DOT fights a ‘continual battle’

Interstate pothole sidelines four vehicles at once as DOT fights a ‘continual battle’
Randy Seffron, behind, and John Helwig with the City of La Vista, drop hot asphalt into potholes on 84th Street. KENT SIEVERS/THE WORLD-HERALD

A split second before Art Horn’s Lexus ES 350 passed over the crater in the road, he knew there’d be trouble.

He was right. The systems analyst for Omaha Public Power District was heading to work Saturday morning on eastbound Interstate 80, driving on a ramp near the Interstate 680 interchange, when his vehicle struck a large pothole, popping both tires on the driver’s side.

“It was huge,” said Horn, 47, “and it wasn’t there the night before, so I’m not really sure how it opened up that quickly.”

Horn said there were at least four cars on the side of the road that morning, all victims of a problem that sends many Nebraskans to their local auto repair shop.

So it’s all hands on deck at the Nebraska Department of Transportation to ensure a smooth ride on Interstates and highways.

The department has a maintenance force in excess of 600 people statewide dedicated to patching potholes on Interstates and highways, according to Jeni Campana, a Department of Transportation spokeswoman. The state is using temporary patches to address problem spots until the weather warms, which will allow crews to fill holes with permanent hot asphalt.

“It’s a continual battle and it will be a continual battle until we can get a permanent patch on a lot of these (holes),” Campana said.

Campana said the state doesn’t track every pothole that crews fix, though the department is aware of the major problem spots — like the hole that forced Horn to shell out $125 at Tires Plus.

Rainy weather Tuesday and Wednesday could delay patching efforts. Campana said that the temporary patches don’t stand up well to moisture and that all the salt on the roads attracts water.

“When it gets wet, there’s not much we can do,” she said.

State crews begin work each day at midnight and continue through the afternoon. Potholes on Interstates in the Omaha area can be reported to the Department of Transportation at 402-595-2534.

Horn has lived in Omaha for about 13 years. The roads in South Dakota, where he previously lived, were never nearly as bad as the ones in Omaha, he said. He described his experience here like driving over a “washboard.”

“There are a lot of potholes in Omaha,” Horn said. “You can drive all over the place and see that city streets are very bad.”