When Scott Lucas drives his car in front of his home, he sometimes finds himself weaving cautiously from one lane to another and back.
It’s not that he’s trying to be reckless; he’s simply doing what he can to avoid the potholes that give this stretch of Bronson Avenue at the corner of Powell an almost lunar appearance, where the craters have craters, and scattered hubcaps regularly litter the road and sidewalk.
“It’s almost like a slalom course,” he says. “You really have to move around.”
Yes, it’s springtime in Ottawa, where, before the robins, daffodils and daylight time have had a chance to make their presences known, the potholes have heralded the end of winter by baring their ugly cavities and sending one vehicle after another to the repair shop. It’s our own version of the swallows that famously return to San Juan Capistrano, Calif., each year, except ours swallow cars.
Bronson Avenue is particularly unforgiving. Along its route — the one that bounces visitors downtown from the Ottawa International Airport — five intersections are among the top 10 that the city received complaints and calls for service about in the first 24 days of March.
The intersection at Powell Avenue was the subject of 22 calls over that period, second only to Alta Vista Drive and Kilborn Avenue, which sparked 27 calls. The intersection of Bay and Somerset Street West took the bronze medal with 18 calls, followed by King Edward and St. Patrick, and Bronson and Carling, with 17 each.
Lucas’ partner, Mary Gorman, says she almost called 311, the city’s municipal services number, a week-and-a-half ago to complain about Bronson/Powell, but a crew arrived to patch up the road the following day. And today, well, you’d hardly know they’d been by.
“There have always been potholes here,” she notes of the 15 years they’ve lived at the intersection. “They filled them all a week-and-a-half ago, and look at it now. They’ve refilled it so often that I think they now need to absolutely scrape it right down two feet, fill it up and repave the whole thing.”
“Tear it all down and start over,” agrees Lucas. “They seem to come by when there’s water in the potholes and fill them with asphalt, and within an hour or two, the cars pop it all out again.”
Dan and Lori-Anne Marks, out walking their dog, Fanny, agree.
“It’s classic,” says Lori-Anne Marks. “There are potholes every year. They do little repair jobs to fill them in and they come back. There are some huge ones, too.
“It really is a sign of spring,” adds Dan Marks. “And we certainly hit them.”
And perhaps it shall forever be so. According to Quentin Levesque, the city’s director of roads and parking services, Ottawa experiences an average of 79 freeze-thaw cycles each year.
“As potholes are difficult to repair during the cold winter months,” he wrote in an emailed reply from the city’s communications department, “this time of year is typically the worst for road conditions for a few reasons: the amount of freeze and thaw cycles increases, winter weather events (snow, freezing rain and rain) continue to occur, and crews receive an influx of service requests from various areas of the city.”
About a week ago, according to Levesque, 166 crews were assigned to pothole repairs. The week before, 184 crews were deployed, “all while juggling other winter/spring operational activities that are vital to ensuring our transportation network remains safe for all users.”