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Larkin: Pothole fix bad mix for Keystone bikers

March 3, 2009

By Chris Buckley

The freeze and thaw cycle of southwestern Pennsylvania weather creates
potholes – hazards to motorists.

But a method for filling those potholes is causing another hazard for
motorcyclists, one local rider claims.

Leonard Larkin, coordinator and chaplain for His Laboring Few Motorcycle
Ministry of Pennsylvania, rides constantly. He is not alone.
Pennsylvania ranks third in the country for registered motorcyclists.

“We ride all year long and we understand the hazards of riding in all
seasons,” Larkin said.

“Those hazards include the leaves in fall, which can get slick when they
get wet, and the ice in shade in winter, as well as sand and salt.

“But none of that stuff compares to what they’re laying down. There’s no
warning.”

When Larkin said “they’re” he referred to Pennsylvania Department of
Transportation crews that repair potholes.

Jeff Breen, Washington County maintenance manager for PennDOT, said that
this time of the year, crews use a method known as spray patch to fill
potholes.

In this method, crews operate a truck that squirts oil into the pothole
and mixes it with an aggregate material that subsequently hardens.

“We don’t roll them. We try to patch to the road level,” Breen said.

“Usually, if there is any hump, it will go down with traffic.”

Breen admitted there is some loss of gravel in the first one to three
hours after the hole is filled. He said it is possible to spill some
gravel on the road outside of a pothole, but crews generally sweep that
up.

Breen said that in the best form of pothole patching, crews jackhammer
out the damaged road surface and pour in a hot mix of asphalt. But
asphalt plants are seasonal and won’t open again until spring, Breen
said.

Larkin said he has spoken several times with PennDOT officials, who have
told him someone should be sweeping up the excess pothole patch
material. As Larkin spoke to a PennDOT foreman recently at a job site, a
motorcyclist rode by and nearly laid his bike down when he skidded on
lose patching material, Larkin claimed.

“This poses a hazard,” Larkin said. “It is also waste money with excess
material. If they sweep that up and recycle the material, it would save
money.

“They’re creating a potentially deadly hazard, especially for
motorcyclists.”

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