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Spring thaw reveals La Crosse's cratered streets

Water fills pot holes Friday along La Crosse Street, often among of the hardest hit roads in the city.

Recent rains have washed away La Crosse’s thick blanket of snow, revealing quiet streets and main thoroughfares that look downright lunar.

“Some of these spots have gone beyond potholes and are more like craters,” said Mike La Fleur, superintendent of streets for the city of La Crosse. In 28 years with that department, “this is probably the worst that I’ve seen, along with last year. Streets are bad all over town.”

To keep track of these tire-blowing, rim-bending problem spots, the Tribune has started a new project: Pothole Patrol. We’re asking readers to visit our website and report the gnarliest potholes they’ve come across — data we’ll plug into an interactive map meant to keep cars running and officials accountable.

Early submissions include a “giant, money-sucking pothole” near the intersection of Jackson and 19th streets, and a depression on Losey Boulevard, in front of Central High School, that “someone could fall in.”

La Fleur said crews have been scrambling to patch the busiest, most problematic streets. On Friday, the city announced lane closures on two major arteries — Losey Boulevard, between State and Mormon Coulee roads, and George Street, between Gillette and Clinton streets — as repairs continue.

The weather seems to be cooperating, too, drying up. Rain and snowmelt this week pooled in the streets, sometimes as crews were working, disrupting repairs.

“With all this moisture, we just haven’t been able to keep up,” said La Fleur, who compared it to gardening. “If you put a handful of black dirt in a dry pot, you can pack it down nice, and it will stay. But if you fill the pot a quarter of the way with water, and then put the dirt in, you’re going to have some problems.”

Water affects streets the same way a hole punch affects paper.

Spring thaw reveals La Crosse's cratered streets

A driver avoids potholes along the 900 block of Division Street Friday where the street department has posted road closed signs to warn motorists.

In the winter, groundwater freezes under streets, expanding, causing the pavement to fracture. These cracks let in more water, resulting in another round of freezing and fracturing.

The weight of cars and trucks puts further stress on these fault lines, until it looks as if a meteor shower has made landfall.

Mark Webster, manager at Goodyear Auto Service in La Crosse, said he is accustomed to a steady trickle of pothole-related repairs each spring. But he was not prepared for this.

“We’ve had an unusual amount, a ridiculous amount — a 100- or 200-fold increase,” he said. “Every morning when we come in, there are at least three more vehicles that need new tires.”

“They’re coming in like crazy with ruined tires and bent rims,” said Fred Lezpona, service adviser at Fred’s Brake & Alignment. “We’re trying to keep up, trying to keep everyone happy.”

Mechanics and city officials alike urge motorists to take it slow on ravaged roads, especially those with pooling water, and to avoid potholes however possible.

Swerving, they said, will not always suffice.

“If you know an area that’s notoriously bad, it might be best to find a different route,” La Fleur said. “People have lives and places to be, and they can’t get there if they blow a tire or wreck their front end.”

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Kyle Farris covers education for the La Crosse Tribune. Reach him at (608) 791-8234 or kfarris@lacrossetribune.com.

(14) comments

mamasboy

Why is West Ave. in much better shape than other well traveled streets?

LaCrosseTaxPayer

Why do tax payers get fined if the sidewalk is not clear after 24 hours of a snowfall, but the city don’t clear many of their walks? The same with potholes, the city should have 24 hours to repair a pothole that are a bigger and more costly problem than snow on a sidewalk! The city should be responsible for the cost of damage to a car for any pothole not repaired in 24 hours! The clowns at city hall always “find” the cash for their pet projects like parks, ball fields, TIFs for the good old boys, round a bouts, bike lanes, new building replacing 20 year old buildings, trips overseas, parking ramps for the good old boys, replacing equipment and vehicles that are just a few years old because of abuse and lack of maintenance! City hall and the city clowncel needs a good house cleaning and over half of the morons need to be fired and replaced with people that are smart enough to balance a check book and stick to a budget!!!

madmen60

I completely agree. The citizens and taxpayers demand fiscal restraint and responsibility. Don't spend my money on unnecessary and frivolous boondoggles.

JaneyBird

Now wait a minute before you talk about more taxes and "we all have to help pay for this'. We all have already paid for this and pet projects have taken priority to infrastructure maintenance. 'Madman' has got it right. New leadership that doesn't get into office to build their legacy.

DaisyL

I agree with "Second Thought," time to quit stalling & act on this issue. A one time wheel tax is very limiting for the future, so I'd say add a tax on gas & beer, so there will be a continual source of funding for road repair. No one wants added on taxes but driving is truly becoming a hazard for ones car as well as a community that wants to retain an image of viability to work in, reside in, and play in. There are no large businesses or corporations to offset the housing taxes in this community & hasn't been in years, so it's going to come down to all of us now to help foot the bill.

Rick Czeczok

The problem I have with an additional tax is this; the tax on gas was meant for road repair but our government opened this money up to the general fund to use as they wished. It was used on everything but roads. What should change my mind that the same thing would not happen to but another new tax. Just like social security, these funds need to be used for the purpose they were set up, for and not just a fund to be taken from when politicians need money for their pet projects. As you can see by the for mentioned both the state and federal government are to blame for the wasteful government spending. Now they want the public to once again bail them out. Sounds like the same thing banks work off of. Bail, bail, bail. waters getting deep.

GrandpaS

You're right, Rick. I guess if you have money coming it to support Social Security, Medicare or road repairs, doing the obvious by putting that money into the fund where it's supposed to go is too complicated for our elected officials to figure out. Very frustrating.

capedcrusader

I agree.

madmen60

The city of La Crosse has been wasting its tax dollars on rarely used Park department projects and bike lanes when it should have been using these funds to repair the horrible roads. We need new leadership.

capedcrusader

I encourage everyone to find that different route to take. I'd like to suggest everyone drive down Cass Street now until real progress is made . You will drive on the smoothest road and get to see first hand the direction our city wants to take in regard to road building. Sure you will have to drive around curb extensions one right after the other and right against bike paths but at least you won't have to buy new tires or end up with bent rims. Cmon everyone, take Cass Street for trouble free driving!

Rick Czeczok

No filling a pothole up three years in a row with cold mix and calling it good for the next 3 years and then the next year it gets bigger and then bigger yet the following year is what makes massive potholes. Those massive ones are caused by the city council not doing their job and allowing everything to the dogs. This is a man made problem that was an easy fix, if they would have done it right the first year it started to develop. This year the mayor said that 7 miles of roads will be fixed and it's a great start. That is a joke when 50 miles of roads need serious repair. You will never catch up at that rate. Better hire another consultant to figure out just how wrong you are.

Second Thought

Quite simply the citizens of Wisconsin scream any time a politician wants to raise money to pay for road repairs. Our roads have been ignored for the last 4 years and now we have to live with the results of that short sighted policy. At some point drivers need to pay for the roads they drive on. It's that simple.

GrandpaS

Bulls eye, Second Thought. To fix things, government needs money. To give them money, we have to pay taxes........or live with the holes, cracks and gullies. 8 cents a gallon additional tax on gas = 10 gallons would cost you 80 more cents a week. For that, you can enjoy your ride more and not bust your car up, the repairs of which will cost a h*** of a lot more than 80 cents a week.

capedcrusader

And they should have done it when gas was back down to $2 a gallon. Now the Republicans will fight an increase ever step of the way.

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