Taking Potholes Off The Map
Pearsall’s Newly Proactive Pothole Program Is Improving City Streets
For those of us who live in northern regions, it may seem as though potholes are our personal bane. But freeze/thaw cycles are not the only conditions that create problems with the pavement. Heat and rain/drought cycles also eat road materials and cause potholes to form. Just ask Xavier Antu, Public Works Director for the City of Pearsall, Texas. Pearsall is a farming community of about 9,000, located just south of San Antonio, Texas. It is the Frio County seat and the largest city along the I-35 corridor between San Antonio and Laredo. The climate averages 70°F year-round, and the weather is hot and humid for 80 percent of the year. Although the area receives about 25 inches of rain annually, it also is prone to drought. “Rain eats up a lot of our roads,” explains Antu. “We have some curb and gutter, but even with that, concentrated amounts of water can’t drain quickly enough, and it compromises the integrity of the roads.” Antu explains that it is not unusual for the city to experience rainfalls of 5 to 6 inches in an hour-and-a-half. “With that amount of rain in a short period, it takes a long time for the water to discharge, and the stagnant water creates potholes,” he adds.
Pearsall covers about 10.5 square miles, and the City is responsible for 175 lane miles of streets and roads. The City’s road crew is strictly a maintenance crew, traditionally handling scraping and sweeping. Resurfacing projects are contracted out, and inter-local agreements with Frio County allow Pearsall to take care of projects such as sealcoating. “Scraping and sweeping are important to the community because they eliminate curbside debris and the sandy dust left behind after rains, which causes vegetation to spring up,” Antu says. “Our streets typically have 25 feet of right-of-way, and about 18-feet-width of asphalt. We have a tack kettle, a skid steer, a loader, and a street sweeper. It’s hard to get bigger equipment in there to work. Even our street cleaning involves a lot of manual labor – and we really had no means, other than manual labor, to treat our pothole problems. Potholes have been a big issue with our City’s pavement, and we were forced to only be very reactive about them.”
But Pearsall’s reactive pothole program has changed just this year to become more proactive – with its purchase of an FP5 Flameless Pothole Patcher from Salina, Kansas-based Bergkamp Inc. According to Antu, in searching for equipment to help alleviate the City’s pothole problems, he and the City staff stumbled across a video of a pothole patching machine that caught their interest. “It wasn’t a video created by Bergkamp, and we couldn’t even tell who the manufacturer was until we saw a logo on the machine at the end of the video,” he says. “I went to Bergkamp’s website, and was overwhelmed when I saw the productivity that the FP5 can produce.” Antu says in his research, he could not find another similar unit that could perform with the caliber, quality, and safety of the Bergkamp model.
A Prescription for Potholes
The Bergkamp FP5 Flameless Pothole Patcher employs an all-in-one patching method that removes all of the distressed asphalt, leaving only sound material. The damaged area is broken up and squared off using the pavement breaker. The broken out material is tossed into one of two onboard spoils bins. An air and tack wand blows out any remaining debris and applies the tack coating, which helps bind the new asphalt to the existing pavement and seals out moisture for a better patch. A material chute delivers the fresh hot asphalt to the prepared area, and a compactor then consolidates the material evenly with the existing pavement. The unit is designed to allow one individual to safely and efficiently perform all tasks. Pearsall chose to add a swing auger option to its FP5, which offers a big advantage in repairing large areas and doing shoulder work. Compared to traditional “throw and roll” methods, the all-in-one patching method provides a long-term, semi-permanent to permanent patch solution with a professional appearance. Because the patching material is placed against straight, square edges, it will not push out. This method is endorsed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
After initially reaching out to Bergkamp Regional Manager Jennifer Straus in mid-August 2016, Antu says the prompt response and resourceful assistance he and the Pearsall City Council received from the manufacturer played a large role in allowing the City to take delivery of the unit in January 2017. “The purchasing process was accelerated for us with this machine, which is unusual. It is very rare for a city to outright purchase a capital product like this. Typically, we have to follow a budget season that includes looking at equipment, presenting our findings to the City Manager and City Council for approval, and then going out for bids. A lot of times, we enter into a lease agreement instead of making a purchase. We’re grateful to the City Council for approving this purchase in September (2016). It took very little convincing,” Antu adds. The City of Pearsall had created a Certificate of Obligation Bond for infrastructure improvement earlier in 2016 – including funds for the purchase of equipment to maintain its streets. The machine was purchased under the Buy Board Purchasing Cooperative, which is open to all nonprofit agencies. “(The City Council) formulated a budget, and it fell right in. It happened very quickly,” Antu says.
Pearsall took delivery of its FP5 Pothole Patcher on January 31, 2017. The city’s crew received initial training upon delivery, with more extensive training two weeks later. As part of training on the machine, Bergkamp also introduced Antu and his crew to the unit’s onboard InPave® Technology Pothole Patching Management System, which automatically monitors and manage pothole patching performance. InPave provides an easy way for City management to monitor the production, performance, and location of the pothole patcher and crew. As potholes are repaired, data from the repair is automatically transmitted back to the office for analysis. “The transparency InPave provides to the City Manager, City Council, and the community at large is invaluable in holding us accountable for the job we are hired to fulfill for the City,” Antu says. “The FP5 is a great benefit for the City of Pearsall,” says Antu. “It is allowing us to take a proactive approach to pothole repairs, and improve our city streets. In addition to repairing known potholes more effectively and efficiently, our crew also is enabled to proactively stop and repair potholes they see during their shift. And InPave collects all of the data and provides reports, which helps us to improve efficiency and provide transparency.”
For more information on the FP5, visit the product page CLICK HERE