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Everything to know about Memphis potholes
Everything you ever wanted to know about Memphis potholes
Posted on 02/20/2019

Frustrated with Memphis potholes?

So are we.

But under Mayor Jim Strickland’s direction, we're confronting the challenge head-on. Part of that involves clearly communicating with you everything we’re doing. So here are some frequently asked questions about potholes in our city, along with answers that demonstrate what how we're taking action.

Q: How can I help?
A: 
Simple: Report the potholes you see! We’ve tried to make this as easy as possible, enabling reports in one of three ways:

  1. Use the Memphis 311 app, available in the App Store and Google Play. Nearly 9,000 Memphians have downloaded the Memphis 311 app. 
  2. Submit a report at 311.memphistn.gov
  3. Call 3-1-1 during regular business hours (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)


Q: How many crews work to fill potholes?
A:
In the winter months, when pothole reports peak, we have as many as 10 crews attending to requests and filling potholes they encounter along the way. This is a large increase from warmer months, when we typically have two crews. Last year, our Public Works crews repaired some 63,000 potholes; roughly 7,500 of them were ones reported by citizens. The rest are potholes the crews encountered on their own. Our crews work weekends and overtime this time of year to repair as many potholes as possible.

Q: Does the City repair all the potholes in the City limits?
A:
No. In fact, some of our most heavily traveled streets are the property of the state of Tennessee, meaning that they’re maintained by the Tennessee Department of Transportation. To report potholes on a TDOT street, call 684-5467. (Also, each day we share with TDOT the reports of potholes on state streets that come into our 311 system.) For reference, here’s a list of TDOT streets:

  • Interstates 40, 55, and 240
  • Bill Morris Parkway (TN 385)
  • Covington Pike (TN 204)
  • Danny Thomas Boulevard/Thomas Street (TN 3)
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard east of Second (TN 278)
  • East Parkway/part of Airways Boulevard (TN 277)
  • E.H. Crump Boulevard (TN 1/4)
  • Elvis Presley Boulevard/Bellevue Boulevard south of Union (TN 3)
  • Germantown Parkway (TN 177)
  • Getwell Road/New Getwell Road south of I-240 (TN 176)
  • Jackson Avenue (TN 14)
  • Lamar Avenue (TN 4)
  • North Parkway/A.W. Willis Avenue east of Second (TN 1)
  • Poplar Avenue east of East Parkway (TN 57)
  • Second Street south of Chelsea Avenue (TN 14)
  • Shelby Drive east of Third Street (TN 175)
  • Stage Road (TN 15)
  • State Route 300 — I-40/Thomas Street connector
  • Summer Avenue (TN 1)
  • Third Street/B.B. King Boulevard (TN 14)
  • Union Avenue east of Second (TN 3)
  • Walnut Grove Road west of I-240 (TN 23)
  • Weaver Road south of Shelby Drive (TN 175)

Q: How does weather impact potholes and time to repair them?
A:
Heavy rain and freeze-thaw conditions contribute greatly to creating potholes, which is why potholes peak during the winter. Heavy rain accelerates “washing out” of loose pavement, and freezing precipitation creates buckles in asphalt that get worse as traffic drives over them.

Plus, when the pavement is wet and the potholes are filled with water, our crews can’t repair them. That makes rainy or winter weather a double-whammy: It makes the problem worse, and lengthens the amount of time it takes to make repairs.

Q: How about just paving more streets?
A:
We agree, and we are. Under Mayor Strickland and the current City Council, we’ve doubled the annual paving allocation from where it was just four years ago. Here’s a list of recent paving amounts:

  • 2018-19 — $19 million
  • 2017-18 — $18.5M
  • 2016-17 — $16.5M (first Strickland budget)
  • 2015-16 — $15M
  • 2014-15 — $9.5M
  • 2013-14 — $8.5M
  • 2012-13 — $6.5M
  • 2011-12 — $6.5M
  • 2010-11 — $11.5M
  • 2009-10 — $5.8M
  • 2008-09 — $12M
  • 2007-08 — $12M
  • 2006-07 — $12M

As you can see, the low levels of funding from earlier this decade created a backlog in paving that we’re still working through today and will be for years to come.

Q: Where do you plan to pave this year?
A:
All over the city. You can see a projection of upcoming paving here. When the City Council approves the 2019-20 capital budget in June, we’ll firm up plans for even more streets to pave. Paving “season” for our contractors and crews usually starts as soon as the weather gets warmer, as early as next month.

Q: Here’s a wild thought: Why not pave every single street in the city this year?
A:
Believe us, we would if we could. But Memphis, as the result of years and years of annexations growing the city to a size of 324 square miles (Boston, for example, has the same population as Memphis but is only 89 square miles), now has 6,800 or so lane-miles of road. That’s right: 6,800 lane-miles — enough to drive back and forth to Los Angeles twice. Even if we assume there were enough asphalt and contractors in the city to pave every street in a year, it would likely cost more than half a billion dollars. For perspective, the maximum for the annual capital budget — which in addition to paving also has to pay for items like police cars, fire engines, and maintenance on City property — is roughly $85 million annually.

Q: Why does this only happen in Memphis?
A:
It doesn’t. Just do a quick Google search, and you’ll see where rain has created more potholes in Los Angeles, where Topeka is seeing a spike in potholes, where Seattle is scrambling to fix more of them, and where citizens are frustrated in Kansas City. The New Orleans newspaper has even created a pothole tracker! So, we’re not alone in our challenge, though that’s of little solace to us here in Memphis.

Q: Can the City be proactive in finding potholes?
A:
We’re getting there. As Mayor Strickland said in his State of the City speech last month, we’re partnering with a major technology company to pilot machine learning that could lead to us scanning our own streets for potholes and filling them even faster. We’re still in the early phases of this, though, and it won't help us right now.

Q: How does the City fix potholes, anyway?
A:
One of two ways: If the temperature is below 35 degrees, we use a cold asphalt mix. If it's above 35 degrees, we use hot asphalt mix made from our very own plant.

Q: What should I do if I have damage from a pothole?
A:
 Assuming it was on a City street, you should file a claim with us. To start that process, click here.

Q: What does the City do about large potholes after hours?
A:
We have after-hours crews that can place barricades around potholes until they can be fixed when it's light outside, which ensures for the safety and more efficient working conditions for our crews.



For updates on our progress in repairing potholes, be sure to follow @CityOfMemphis on Twitter.

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