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What is a Pothole?

What is a pothole?
A pothole is a hole in the roadway pavement that may vary in size and shape.  A pothole forms when water has seeped under the pavement and into the road base.  As vehicles run over these weakened areas, the pavement disappears and the hole gets larger.

In the City of Compton, a pothole is considered any area of missing or severely deteriorated pavement that is up to about 5 feet by 5 feet.

What causes a pothole?
Potholes occur when street pavement cracks and breaks because the underlying road base has been compromised, usually by water.  Traffic running over this area causes the pothole to grow.

Water can get under the pavement through age cracks or from the side of the road. Over time, the water can cause the material under the pavement to erode, causing the pavement to sink down and break.

Traffic that is too heavy for the pavement’s design can also result in cracks. Large volumes of traffic or heavy trucks and buses using a street not designed for this load can cause the pavement to crack and break apart. Winter freezes and heavy rains can exacerbate these conditions and make it seem like potholes break out overnight.

Is there a long-term solution to potholes?
The long term solution is to continue to make investments into our infrastructure through proactive treatments such as street sealing, crack filling, joint sealing, and pavement overlay to extend the pavement life, and plan replacement / reconstruction of our aging pavements.  Potholes will not usually form on pavement that is in good condition, that protects the underlying base from water seeping in, and that is designed for the type of traffic that uses it.

Why are there so many potholes in Compton streets?
There is about 70 miles of arterial streets and 150 miles of local streets for a total of approximately 45 million square feet of pavement. City streets, potholes will appear in many locations.  Most cities expect to see more potholes in the winter and spring, following periods of cold temperatures and rain or snow. Many streets, particularly in the older areas of the City. have an aging underlying structure, or sub base, which reacts poorly to these conditions and increases the number of potholes that develop.

You filled a pothole, but a few days later, there it was again. Why don’t your repairs last longer?
Weather conditions during the pothole repair, traffic after the repair, and natural ground settlement generally determine how well the patch will perform.  While many potholes may perform well over several months, or even years, where underlying roadway problems exist, pothole patching is a temporary repair.  If the cause of the pothole is not corrected, such as water getting under the pavement, pothole patches may fail, or more potholes will continue to form. The long-term solution is to repave the street, and in some cases, to reconstruct the street from the ground up, and from curb to curb.

Public Works says it fills potholes within XXX business days, but the pothole is still there. What’s going on?
There are several reasons why we may not have made the repair you requested:

  • Weather Delay: Potholes cannot be filled if it is raining, if the pothole itself is filled with water or when the temperature is below 45 degrees. Flooding or extended periods of rain or freezing temperatures can create a backlog of repairs. When work is delayed, the requested repairs go into queue until weather conditions improve.  The crews then work overtime to resolve the backlog of repairs.
  • Can’t find the pothole: Sometimes customers give incomplete or insufficient information and we cannot locate the potholes they are reporting. This is why leaving your name, phone number and email address p is so important. The more contact information we have, the easier and faster it is to contact you for a better description of the location.
  • Other Jurisdictions: Some locations in the City of Compton are actually owned and/or maintained by other entities such as Los Angeles County, or private owners.  When citizens report potholes on roads that are outside of the City of Compton’s responsibility, we forward the information to the right entity.
  • Not a Pothole: Utility covers: Private utilities such as phone, gas and electric have service entry points in the public street.  When these entrances to the underground utilities become worn, the owners of the utility must repair the cracked and/or damaged pavement around the rim.  When the reported pothole is the result of these utility covers, we will forward your report to them for repair.
  • Off to the side of the road: Sometimes a pothole forms off to the side of the roadway, especially when drainage is inadequate and the area is used for parking. These areas are usually the responsibility of the adjacent property owner to maintain. We have inspectors who verify if the pothole is within the improved street, or if it is within the part of right of way that is the responsibility of the property owner.
  • Can’t be repaired as a pothole: Some defects that are reported as potholes are really some other kind of problem that cannot be repaired as a pothole and require more extensive repairs.

How many potholes does the City fill? 
The City of Compton fills approximately 5,000 potholes each year. More than 500 pothole repair requests a year are submitted by the public.