It's been a long, cold winter, but there are signs spring is just around the corner.
The evidence can be seen – and felt – driving around town.
"I would say the number of potholes is more than normal this year," said Steve Lund, Director of Operations for the Town of Tillsonburg.
"Based on our observations, the number is higher. I'm sure we'll be going through a little bit more pothole filler this year.
"(Potholes) can happen any time of year, but it's usually when you've been in a deep freeze and then you get the warm temperatures. You get a freeze followed by a thaw so that the ice that forms within the roadway, the pavement structure, when it melts it leaves a void. You get a localized settlement causing a hole. The pavement immediately collapses and forms a pothole."
Public Work staff have been on patrol, and working hard using a cold (asphalt) patch to repair roads.
"People can call Customer Service to report potholes if they think they're not being addressed," said Lund, noting the availability of the Active Citizen Response (ACR) program which helps identify problem areas.
"If they do have concerns they can call in to Customer Service at 519-842-9200, which allows us to make sure we get it covered off," he said, noting response times can vary by size and depth, but they typically try to get them patched within 48 hours.
Hot mix asphalt still works best, he said, but the 'cold patch' has been effective.
"It's pretty much all cold patch for potholes. It's designed for use in cold climates and it does compact. It's temporary... it will last, but over time it may settle and you either have to top it up or re-apply. All of our pothole material is basically temporary of nature.
"Hot mix we use for paving or resurfacing, which typically involves the 'shave-and-pave' using a grinder to take off the top two inches, then fixing any base deformities."
The older the pavement, the more it seems prone to weaken in high-traffic areas. North Street East and Tillson Avenue South are two such areas – and both are on the list for resurfacing.
Tillson Avenue's curb lanes from Brock to Oxford/Simcoe Streets were scheduled to be resurfaced in 2013, but ran out of time last fall due to weather.
"It was work they couldn't get to," said Lund. "We'll continue to patch until the County has lined up a contractor, but asphalt plants don't usually open up until May. Once we get the frost out of the ground, it should settle down in terms of potholes developing, or re-developing. So when spring finally does arrive, which is hopefully not too far around the corner, it should settle down in terms of pothole development. But we still have to wait until the County can get their contractor in, which will likely be some time after May."
Phase 1 of a four-phase reconstruction of North Street, a road the County of Oxford and Town of Tillsonburg share responsibility, from Broadway to the town's eastern limits, was slated to begin in 2014 following multiple public information sessions from 2011-2013, and a 2013 environmental assessment. The $11 million North Street project is expected to take 3-4 years.
“This section of road is in rough shape – there’s no doubt about it," said Rob Walton, director of public works with the County of Oxford, at a Tillsonburg council meeting in May 2013. "The road needs to be re-done and we need to do the upgrades that will allow the development to happen. We need to work with the Town to do things like sidewalk improvements because sidewalks are part of the Town’s responsibility and we will do them as part of this job. This is a project that’s going to open up that area for development and we’re trying to do the things that will start with this as the gateway to it and make it a good area.”
“The roadway needs to be reconstructed - the area needs sanitary sewers, water main and storm drainage improvements,” said Lund in May 2013. “It goes back to over 50 years to when it was under the Township of Dereham. A lot of that area was built at that time to different standards that aren’t current, so reconstruction of this roadway will bring the servicing and roadway up to current urban standards. It will provide adequate servicing for both existing and proposed development."