Pothole season comes early, as does frustration

Market Avenue SW, Grand Rapids, pothole
A large pothole on Market Avenue SW in Grand Rapids that caused several flat tires. (Jan. 10, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — While everyone likes a little warm spell in the middle of a brutal Michigan winter, there is a downside — potholes.

The temperature rollercoaster we’re on where temperatures are going from the teens to the 40s one day to the next means were getting an early introduction to no one’s favorite time of year: pothole season.

“These temperature swings make it just really difficult to maintain. I think Michigan is probably the toughest place in the world to maintain roads, especially where we live,” said John Richard, Michigan Department of Transportation communications representative.

Tuesday, 24 Hour News 8 told you about a monstrous pothole on Market Avenue SW near I-196 that was responsible for nearly a dozen cars getting flat tires or damaged rims and scores of others getting a teeth-rattling jolt.

“I was just driving down the street… and all of a sudden I hit the pothole. I didn’t even see it — it was filled with water,” said driver James Burton

And now we’ve been getting emails from viewers about the all too common problems with M-6.

24 Hour News 8 told that the issues with the construction joints along the road constructed just a decade ago are causing the road to fall apart far ahead of schedule.

“Oh yeah, we have to limp along until 2018 when we can fully reconstruct that stretch on M-6,” Richard said.

The problem is the same one that plagues roads throughout the state.

“The science behind it is the water gets trapped in, it freezes expands and then it basically recoils and the pavement settles down and that happens over and over again all winter,” Richard said.

And the things we do try and help, only make things worse in the long run.

“And then when we put salt on the road that creates more freeze/thaw cycles because the salt lowers the freezing temperature of water thus creating more freeze/thaw cycles in the road so salt is very corrosive,” Richard said.

So the bottom line is, you live in Michigan: potholes are a way of life.

But what can you do if your car is wrecked by a pothole?

Governments in general are immune from any liability, but potholes are the exception — but there are a lot of rules.

24 Hour News 8 talked to attorney Randy Allaben who has two decades of experience in personal injury law.

“Even a $1,000 repair bill, often times, what you have to go through in filing suit to get compensation is too much time and expense to bother with,” Allaben said.

First off, the pothole has to have been reported and then the city, county or MDOT has 30 days to fix it.

“If it’s reported and we don’t get to it, it’s our fault, but we fix them usually within a couple of days so they know about it right away,” Richard said.

Knowing this gives the government extra incentive to fix the roads.

”Crews are going to try to patch it up as best we can, but yes, it’s bad out there, that stretch is not good and this weather is not helping anybody,” Richard said

Attorneys say expect a battle for compensation.

“They typically will fight these pretty strongly, so unless you have a very significant injury, all the time and expense required is not worth it.”

But there are still people who do get satisfaction.

“Well, you know, it’s always worth a phone call, you might have a nice city manager or county road commissioner who might be sympathetic.

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Online:

Report a pothole on a Grand Rapids Road

Report a pothole on a Kent County road

Report a pothole on a state road