Houston floods haven't made roads worse - yet

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Pothole problems since the storm shows complaints are dropping, but public works experts say dry days could bring new issues (KTRK)

To understand Houston roads and why a flood may make potholes worse, you have to understand Pothole Science 101.

Our soil is soft. Experts call it a 'Gumbo Soil'. During a big rain event or flood, it soaks up water like a sponge. The soil expands and the road above it does too.

Then over the course of dry days after the rain, the water dries up. When the water dries, the soil shrinks and the road surface cracks above. That's how a pothole forms and that is what the city is watching for.

"We all know at some point it is probably going to get worse," according to Alvin Wright, Houston's Public Works spokesman.

It hasn't happened yet. In an unscientific drive around flooded Houston neighborhoods, we couldn't find newly created hazards. An ABC-13 Investigates analysis of Houston 311 data shows an 18 percent decrease in pothole and street condition complaints when we compared the week after the flood to the week before.

Wright spoke to Eyewitness News as a pothole crew patched a Southeast Houston street nearby. The crew was in the midst of a 10-hour shift. They have been working the long shifts six days a week for months trying to catch up on a backlog of city potholes that need filling and larger patches that need smoothing. The city crews and outside contractors have been doing the extra work, thanks to $10.8 million in extra road repair funding council awarded in May 2014. A Ted Oberg investigation in February showed most of that money was not spent.

Since then, city crews have jump started. Over the original $10.8 million, less than $1 million is left. Wright assures us, "there is no funding crisis."

City Council is expected to keep steady or slightly increase the road repair budget in the new fiscal year which starts July 1st.

Until then, crews will be watching for possible flood related potholes and trying to keep up with the problems already on our streets. Wright says the best way for you to get your pothole tended to is to call 311 or report it using the 311 app on your smartphone.

Related Topics:
Ted Oberg InvestigatespotholesHouston
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