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Potholes

Not long ago, as snow plows pushed mounds of snow to the edges of parking lots and along city streets, one wag proposed this:

Why not push the snow into the potholes? Nothing else seems to fill them.

A tongue-in-cheek proposal, perhaps, for an annual problem that seems never to be solved — or solved well enough.

Welcome to pothole season in Central Illinois, where tires go flat, rims and attitudes get bent and teeth are rattled in our heads.

Truth be told, potholes are just part of living in an area of the country with often wild temperature swings. Concrete and asphalt freeze and thaw, and buckle and heave in heat. Eventually, they break or crack enough to warrant a patch, which goes through the same cycle.

The patches sometimes are scraped off accidentally, reopening the pothole like a sticky bandage reopens a wound. The worst areas are seams between lanes and near manhole covers, or other places where the surface already has been breached.

Think of it as an earthquake fault, because the heaving eruption will occur where two plates meet.

The only fix, really, is to mill down the street as far as possible, and lay a wide ribbon of new asphalt or concrete. The state did that last year in Bloomington; drivers went around workers, equipment and flaggers for months until the new pavement was in place. The state paid $1 million to resurface Center Street (U.S. 51) from Division to Locust streets and Clinton Street (U.S. 150) from Empire Street to north of Oakland Avenue.

It was expensive, but the road surfaces had gotten so bad that no other repair would be realistic. And because responsibility for roads and streets differs (some are state, some are local, some are county or township), the government body in charge may or may not have the money or resources to keep up with the Joneses.

Streets and roads can't always be fixed when we want them to be. This harsher-than-usual winter — with deep snows forcing multiple trips for plows, plunging temperatures, days of rain, 80-degree temperature swings — along with society's penchant for bigger and heavier vehicles, have played havoc with our road surfaces.

When you have responsibility for hundreds of miles of road, you have to balance the need to fix the potholes with the reality that you may have money only to do it once.

Until then, we have to buckle up, tighten the helmets and put in our mouth guards.

In Bloomington, you can report potholes with the MyBloomington app on your phone or tablet, by calling 309-434-2220 or by emailing publicworks@cityblm.org.

In Normal, motorists can report potholes by calling 309-454-9571 or by visiting the town's website, Normal.org.

On state routes, motorists may report potholes at http://apps.dot.illinois.gov/WER/?from=1 or by calling 1-800-452-4368 (IDOT).

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