Greater Greater Washington

DC cyclists, report potholes for this year's Potholepalooza

Over the next month, DC plans to fill thousands of potholes around the District. Can they actually do it? I need your help to find out.


Photo by Wayan Vota on Flickr.

To cyclists in the District, potholes aren't just minor annoyances, they're pervasive predators. As one who bikes to work and just about everywhere else, I've long complained about our city's pockmarked roads and the dangers they present to bikers.

That's why I was excited to learn about Washington's fifth annual Potholepalooza, an aggressive District Department of Transportation (DDOT) road repair initiative that encourages residents to report potholes. Between April 22 and May 22, DDOT will endeavor to fill all reported potholes within 48 hours, 24 hours faster than usual. DDOT claims to have filled over 21,000 potholes since the inaugural Potholepalooza in 2009.

I've decided to put the program's efficacy to the test. I kicked things off last week by reporting two particularly craterous potholes: a trash-filled chasm outside of the New Executive Office Building on 17th Street NW and a perilous pit in a crosswalk on Macomb Street NW near Connecticut Avenue and the Cleveland Park Library. I was thrilled to see both holes patched within two days.

However, it takes more than just a few filled potholes to make a palooza. Over the next four weeks, I will be biking all over DC to find and report as many potholes as possible. I will track all of the requests to see if and how quickly the potholes get filled, and how well.

I'm interested in measuring the overall responsiveness of Potholepalooza, but also whether certain areas of the city or certain types of streets receive preferential treatment. My hole-goal is to report at least 500 unique DC potholes by May 22. As of today I'm up to about 50, thanks in large part to Macomb between 34th and Connecticut.

I'm only one man on two wheels, so I'm asking for your help, Greater Greater Washington readers. If you see a pothole, report it to DDOT and see if it gets filled. Post the results in the comments, including the hole's location and how quickly and how well DDOT fills it. I will include your results in my survey and post a final assessment when Potholepalooza is over. I will also post a few periodic updates in the coming weeks.

You can report a pothole to DDOT via Twitter and Facebook, by emailing Potholepalooza@dc.gov, by calling 311, or by using 311.dc.gov. I've been using the latter because they provide a unique tracking number and send email updates for every request. You can also track the progress of a pothole using a special pothole GIS map.

I will only be reporting legitimate holes in city streets, not smaller ruts or grooves. I will also refrain from reporting any gashes that are a direct result of ongoing road construction.

Let's fill some holes!

William Petrich moved to Washington in 2011 after attending the University of Michigan. He lives in Woodley Park, works for the American Institute of Architects, and commutes between the two on his bright green Chicago Schwinn. 

Comments

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It's not just 'potholes' per se, but there are these weird, dangerous 'open cuts' all over the place. I don't really know how to explain them but I've never seen anything quite like it. It's like they replaced a pipe or something and the outline of the entire cut is dug out a few inches from the roadbed. Really hazardous. There is one on 17th street just south of M I noticed today and almost took a spill on. Or what about Columbia Road through Adams Morgan/Kalorama? I call that area 'Kabul' because I imagine that's what road surfaces are like in Afghan cities. I'm relatively to to DC, but not to living in big US cities, and have become particularly appalled at the road conditions here. Again, not just potholes but just generally rough roads. Dare I say it: I would live with holding off on new bike lanes for an accelerated pavement rehabilitation program because the general condition of many of the roads I ride (and occasionally drive) on are so wretched. I've ridden on smoother roads in San Salvador - that's not an exaggeration.

by Craig on Apr 29, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

Last month, a pot hole on 3rd SE caused me to fly over my handle bars separate my shoulder. I'll be reporting that little guy.

by tim on Apr 29, 2013 1:36 pm • linkreport

Tim:

"Last month, a pot hole on 3rd SE caused me to fly over my handle bars separate my shoulder. I'll be reporting that little guy."

And people on this site think it is silly to wear a helmet...

A bigger hazard than potholes are the sewer grates that are inserted with the slots going the same direction as the road, instead of counter to it. There is one that is a particular hazard on MacAurther, right at the bottom of the hill coming from Maryland into the District. This is a popular location for recreational cyclists, many going fast where this hazard exists.

There is another sewer grate on Virginia Avenue that someone can easliy get their front wheel lodged into, causing a crash.

by 202_cyclist on Apr 29, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

I know potholes are dangerous for cyclists and others, and should be prioritized, but there a number rough patches without chuckholes that also need some attention.

Maine Ave SW between 14th SW and 15th SW is one such patch that offers cyclists going in both directions a jarring ride.

Discomfort aside, in trying to avoid the worst of it, a cyclist might ride in an unpredictable manner which introduced an element of danger, especially during rush hours.

by Seano on Apr 29, 2013 1:47 pm • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Kenny P on Apr 29, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

Seano - I totally agree. That's what I was getting at in my original post. Someone reminded me once that 'bicycle infrastructure' really begins with smooth riding surfaces. We too often just think of it as bike lanes, cycle tracks, etc but the reality is smooth surfaces are the most basic of cycling infrastructure. And by that measure, many of DC's roads are failing.

by Craig on Apr 29, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

@Craig:

It's not just 'potholes' per se, but there are these weird, dangerous 'open cuts' all over the place.

It's odd, but I'm starting to think DC's contracting system may have something to do with all this. You see newly paved roads that last about a month or two before PEPCO or DCWASA dig them up to do some sort of maintenance. When they're finished, they basically throw some filler into the hole and drive off.

If I were cynical, I'd say having DC Council representation for both PEPCO (VO) and now Fort Meyer Construction (Bonds) probably doesn't help matters much.

It does seem to be a shame that DDOT either can't or won't hold its contractors to some minimum level of service.

by oboe on Apr 29, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

For places to report these potholes, remember DC uses SeeClickFix.

Bike lane potholes have been reported such as:

http://seeclickfix.com/issues/491980-bike-lane-pothole
http://seeclickfix.com/issues/491979-pothole-in-bike-lane
http://seeclickfix.com/issues/324229

http://seeclickfix.com/washington

As soon as it stops raining I'll go see if the potholes are fixed on my route.

What about resurfacing? Two examples I can think of are Logan Circle and Eastern & Rhode Island NE where there are so many grooves and cracks ... but no potholes.

by Frank on Apr 29, 2013 2:23 pm • linkreport

My general rule of thumb has been to report any gashes (be they holes, long ruts, or whatever else) that present appreciable danger to a biker who doesn't see them. While those long ruts, metal plates, and sewer grates are a real hazard to bikers, I've already seen that DDOT is not going to fix them when you report them as part of Potholepalooza. This is what I mean by "ongoing road construction" in my post. Generally, even potholes adjacent manhole covers seem to be a no-go for immediate repair.

by William Petrich on Apr 29, 2013 2:27 pm • linkreport

Does the southbound 15th street bike lane count as one big pothole? I'm joking...but not really.

by aaa on Apr 29, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

Pretty much all of Rock Creek Parkway and the pedestrian path inside DC....oops, that NPS. OK, how about the CCT...oh, NPS again.

by SJE on Apr 29, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

This is not necessarily a slight against Gray but it seems like road conditions in general have deteriorated over the past couple years. It's great that DDOT has continued potholepalooza but as others have pointed out there are entire sections of roads that desperately need repaving. The section of Columbia Rd Chris describes as Kabul is a complete disgrace. The poor condition of the bike lane forces cyclists into the middle of the road, which itself is only slightly less pockmarked with potholes. It's dangerous.

by Dno on Apr 29, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

@oboe

IIRC, there is a new permitting system where the utilities have to do work before a major road project or (potentially) face larger fines to do non-emergency work. That's the reason some street projects like Adams Morgan, Sherman Avenue, etc. seem to take an inordinately long time to complete; it's not just repaving the road but getting all the utility work done.

The problem is that when utilities are permitted to do road work, they're supposed to repave the road back to its original state (but never do) and that's where politics likely comes into play.

by Adam L on Apr 29, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

Wondering if anyone has some expertise here:

Does DDOT maintain Western/Eastern/Southern aves? If so, they should fix Eastern Ave between old town Takoma Park and roughly New Hampshire ave - the pavement situation there is atrocious.

by Nick on Apr 29, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

@Frank

I used SeeClickFix to report a pothole in my neighborhood, and they came and filled it in with loose gravel. The gravel was soon all over the street and proved more dangerous to me as a cyclist than the original pothole

by Christine on Apr 29, 2013 3:51 pm • linkreport

Nick: My understanding is that DDOT asserts jurisdiction over those avenues, and that Maryland starts OFF the avenues. This was a problem a few years back when Marylanders living on those streets were being ticketed for parking in front of their houses because they lacked RPP.

by SJE on Apr 29, 2013 3:52 pm • linkreport

@SJE

Thanks!

by Nick on Apr 29, 2013 3:59 pm • linkreport

There are a couple of interesting, um, topographical features that I've noticed near heavily used bus routes: Pennsylvania near 7th St. NW (not sure if it's been fixed), Florida Avenue NW somewhere around 4th St. I think, and northbound Georgia Ave. just north of U St. NW.

Are these ruts caused by buses? They're like deep grooves and sometimes they have made my ride more interesting, often bouncing stuff out of my basket, but so far not knocking me off the bike.

by Ward 1 Guy on Apr 29, 2013 5:53 pm • linkreport

I've wondered in the past how much of a difference the potholeapalooza makes and how responsive the DDOT really is to these citizen reports. If you're willing to compile and post the results William, I'll be interested in seeing them.

by Biddy222a on Apr 29, 2013 6:04 pm • linkreport

I submitted a request to fill a pothole yesterday after reading this post and it was filled when I rode home at 6:30pm. Of course, they filled it with that gravel mix stuff that tends to disintegrate within a few weeks. They've used a lot of that stuff to fill cracks and gaps on 4th Street SW lately and it's almost like riding on a beach.

by KG_DC on Apr 30, 2013 8:27 am • linkreport

@KG_DC I was about to say that events like potholepalooza make me worried as a bike commuter because in their haste to fill a lot of potholes quickly they end up making the roads only marginally better filled than unfilled. Every morning I bounce over the remnants of poorly patched roads. They patch them so that a car can pass but don't really think about cyclists.

It's the one good thing about bikeshare. Compared to my private bike, the bikeshare tanks can crush right through DC's rutted streets without throwing me over the handlebars.

by Ward 1 Guy on Apr 30, 2013 8:40 am • linkreport

I think this is a great use of potholepalooza - never been sure if it's for the benefit of cars or bikes, but let's make it for bikes!

by bike barbie on Apr 30, 2013 9:19 am • linkreport

Not a cyclist, but I've reported a bunch of potholes over the years and almost always they are filled by the next day or the second day. This program works well.

by ah on Apr 30, 2013 9:29 am • linkreport

And yet the Florida/Rhode Island somehow remains one gigantic pothole.

by andrew on Apr 30, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

*the Florida/Rhode Island intersection*

by andrew on Apr 30, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

Neighbors have been reporting the intersection of Maine Ave SW and 15th St SW for over 3 years now and thus far we've gotten zip. Well, not zip - they did remove one of the two "speed bumps" that was in the northwest-bound lane under the bridge (but only one), but other than that, the powers that be have done nothing with that intersection.

by Moose on Apr 30, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

Neighbors have been reporting the intersection of Maine Ave SW and 15th St SW for over 3 years now and thus far we've gotten zip.

The pavement along that stretch is horrible and I would bet it's controlled by NPS or someone, not DDOT.

by MLD on Apr 30, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

I reported two in the Mt. Pleasant area today. I'll let you know how it goes. Thanks for doing this!

http://seeclickfix.com/issues/497741
http://seeclickfix.com/issues/497724

by Jeremy on Apr 30, 2013 12:08 pm • linkreport

Great job, William! The District thanks you for your efforts! :)

by Hasti on May 1, 2013 9:58 am • linkreport

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