They're a seemingly minor road problem capable of major damage. Now, the City of Boston is testing three new ways to plug potholes. Over the next six months, city streets will be patched with the new materials to expose the products to real-life conditions.
The search for better and faster pothole-filling products is part of Mayor Thomas Menino's SpotHoles campaign, which encourages residents to notify the city of streets in need of repair, whether by phone or through the new Citizens Connect smartphone app. The city said most potholes are fixed within two days of being reported, and more than 1,000 have been patched since the program launched March 12.
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"Potholes are a major menace to drivers," Menino said in a statement. "We are conducting this pilot test because we believe that these innovative solutions may offer longer-lasting, more environmentally friendly solutions than traditional pothole filling materials."
Public works crews demonstrated the different methods on crater-filled Bowdoin Street in Dorchester on Thursday. Among them was a Silly Putty-like substance called Hole Patch. Bags of the material solidify under pressure – from a car, for example – but become pliant again when the pressure is released. Potentially, city workers could use the product as a quick fix until permanent repairs are done.
Speed and flexibility are also components of the other two materials, which are marketed as eco-friendly options. Aquaphalt is made with vegetable oil and contains no pollution-causing volatile organic compounds. Patches are estimated to hold up for 10 years.
The creators of Unique Paving Materials call it a permanent solution that is 100 percent recyclable. Like Hole Patch and Aquaphalt, it's easy to transport and works quickly.
Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Elmo Baldassari said the city hopes at least two of the options live up to their billing and provide lasting repairs.
"We won’t have to come back here in six or seven months, chasing our tails," Baldassari told the Boston Globe. "We could do it once and be done."
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