But for travelers on routes 9 and 100, this season’s potholes have not been a laughing matter. Despite frequent efforts from state highway maintenance crews to fill the potholes with asphalt cold patch and even with hot asphalt, road conditions continue to deteriorate and the potholes appear to be proliferating.
Even locals who are familiar with the hazard areas have been snared by the potholes, including Deerfield Valley News reporter Lauren Harkawik. Returning from an evening meeting this week, she sustained two flat tires after hitting a series of potholes on Route 100 between Higley Hill and Cold Brook roads. And she’s not alone. Local automotive repair businesses are reporting dozens of flat tires, bent rims, and even damaged front end components.
Todd Crawford, at Greene’s Servicenter in Wilmington, said that he has had a steady stream of cars coming in with pothole-related damage. “A lot of cars with blown out sidewalls and bent rims,” Crawford said. “Several have had bent lower control arms, and bent or broken inner tie rods.”
One driver racked up about $1,000 in damage during a trip down Route 100, Crawford said, after damaging two tires, two rims, and a lower control arm. Crawford says many of the drivers are telling him that their damage was caused by potholes in the same location Harkawik’s tires were burst.
Bill Wheeler, at Nido’s Service Station in Wilmington, said he has also repaired a lot of pothole damage recently. He says he has seen a lot of tires with blown-out sidewalls.
“That means the tire has hit a pothole with such an impact that it has pinched the tire between the rim and the ground,” Wheeler says. “Usually, it has been low profile tires. And I’ve seen a few tweaked rims.”
At the other end of the Route 100 potholes, Mike Noonan, of Local Motorcar Services in Wilmington, says that five to 10 vehicles per week come into the shop with pothole damage. “Primarily blown tires, bent wheels, and blown out struts,” Noonan says. “The roads are messed up.”
At Mount Snow Motors, located in Dover, the number of damaged vehicles coming into the garage tapered off after the state patched a particularly pernicious pothole on Route 100 just south of their location.
“That was a real money-maker,” joked Tom Staib. Before the pothole was patched, several cars per week were coming in, some with two damaged tires.
The road conditions have not gone unnoticed by local officials. Wilmington’s and Dover’s economic development departments have said the menacing potholes are an economic threat to the area. The Dover Selectboard and economic development director Steve Neratko have sent letters to Gov. Phil Scott, Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn, and Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Michael Schirling asking them to take action to repair the road as soon as possible.
“In many areas, the damage to the road surface extends the full width of the roadway so drivers must travel outside of their designated travel lane to avoid the obstacles,” Dover officials said. “This presents added dangers to the drivers, their passengers and those who must walk along this busy route. The condition has become so severe that multiple vehicles have become damaged or disabled while trying to navigate the roadway.”
Local officials were told last year that Route 100 was not scheduled for repair and resurfacing until 2020. But Wilmington Town Manager Scott Tucker says there is a tentative plan in the works for a temporary resurfacing this year. Last week, Tucker testified at a joint Senate and House transportation committee meeting.
“I talked about the road conditions on Route 100, which is a Vermont Scenic Byway, and an important north to south highway that serves ski areas in Wilmington, Dover, and Stratton, and even Bromley in Peru,” said Tucker.
Following his testimony, and a discussion with transportation secretary Flynn, Tucker received a call from VTrans manager Chad Allen, and also had a meeting with district supervisor Rob Faley.
“He indicated that, if he got a thumbs-up from his bosses, he would like to do something on Route 100 this year, although it would be just a skim coat for now. But that should last two years until they can do a full reclamation.”
Tucker said he’ll follow up with Allen to advocate for the repair. Officials from both towns say more letters to state transportation officials from local drivers would help build pressure for the repairs.