Now that icy roads and snow-packed streets are a thing of the past, Creighton students and faculty commuting around Omaha have encountered a new hindrance to their travels: gaping craters in the street.
Massive amounts of potholes dot each and every road in Omaha, some so abysmal that drivers have no choice but to swerve into oncoming traffic.
Although potholes are a product of the seasons changing, the number undoubtedly exceeds that of previous years, which can be attributed to the sudden, rapid melting of snow and flash flooding the Midwest experienced.
According to a pothole update on KETV, in a 10-day period from March 18-27, 2019, the City of Omaha repaired an estimated 5,550 potholes.
If the city wanted to fix every lane in Omaha, they estimated that it would cost $800-900 million, but considering the city only receives around $20 million from wheel taxes, this is certainly impossible. That being said, the Capital Improvement Plan provides $320 million for roads over the next six years.
“We have had a record-breaking snowfall and weeks of below-freezing temperatures, ice and rain, resulting in a record number of widespread potholes and street deterioration,” Mayor Jean Stothert said in a press release on March 18. “The severe weather conditions did not allow us to make timely and lasting road repairs.”
Because of this, Stothert authorized payment for vehicle damage from potholes. “Yes, we will get a lot of potholes this spring, there’s no doubt with this weather,” Stothert said in an interview with KETV. “And again, we can't prevent them, but people need to call them in, be patient and we will go out there and repair them.”
“Although we are well aware of the pothole problems across the city, Public Safety has not received any specific reports about car problems due to potholes,” said Michael Reiner, senior director of Public Safety.
Todd Pfitzer, a city engineer and assistant public works director for transportation at the City of Omaha Public Works Department, said that in conjunction with the rapid snow melting exposing the multitudinous potholes, the pothole crisis can be attributed to aging infrastructure.
“On average, we should be maintaining a road every 16 years,” Pfitzer said. “We’re doing every 57 years. We’re 3½ times slower on our efforts to rebuild than we should be.”
However, he wanted to reiterate that the city is doing everything they can.
“We’ve got all our crews working mandatory 12-hour days, 6-7 days a week. We’re doing everything we humanly know to do.”
According to Pfitzer, the same crews worked the entire month of February with no days off on snow-plowing operations. Typically they alternate between snow plowing and pothole filling, but because of the colossal amount of snow, they didn’t have time to fill potholes.
“We fully understand that people are frustrated,” Pfitzer said, “but it happens every year.”