Kansas City scrapped pilot program to predict, prevent potholes before this winter

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Potholes seem to be everywhere around the metro right now. But it wasn’t long ago Kansas City officials were touting new technology they hoped would help them predict and prevent potholes before they formed.

“You now come up with an algorithm where you can predict the most likely locations for potholes,” Kansas City Chief Innovation Officer Bob Bennett said in a 2017 interview with FOX4 ahead of the winter 2018 roll out.

But fast forward a year and drivers might be wondering “whatever happened to predictability” as potholes are now “everywhere you look.”

Kansas City worked with a tech company on the 2018 pilot program to prevent potholes using historical data on streets, traffic, past potholes and weather.

They found potholes usually formed 77 days after the first freeze-thaw cycle. This winter that would mean potholes popping up in late January, which seems to be spot on.

“I got to go like 5 miles an hour just to avoid tearing my car up. It’s been like this for three or four weeks. It’s horrible,” Melvin Smith said of his drive down 68th Street.

FOX4 counted dozens, if not hundreds, of potholes on the stretch of road near 169 Highway. Some had been filled, most hadn’t. Drivers were driving in turn lanes and medians to try to avoid them.

“It’s a total hazard driving down this road. It’s definitely a head on collision waiting to happen,” James Johnson said.

The program promised underground radar to confirm predictions so repairs could be made on warmer winter days ahead of the potholes.

“You actually save money if you can validate that a pothole is likely given the conditions on that road and you repair it using standard road building procedures instead of emergency repairs that also don’t have as long of a life span,” Bennett said as the pilot program was announced.

“Apparently they haven’t implemented that program yet,” Johnson said, looking at the road in front of him.

Kansas City scrapped the program after 2018.

Kansas City spokesman Chris Hernandez called it a successful collaboration, but said, “ultimately, the project did not materialize into a tool that was implementable and easily deployed to the field.”

“Everybody worried about potholes relax. When the spring comes, we are able to do hot patches. Those potholes will be fixed, but you can’t fix them in the winter,” Kansas City Mayor Sly James said.

Potholes might not be able to be “fixed” with hot mix in below-freezing weather, but they are being filled. According to a tweet by the City of Kansas City Tuesday, 2,120 potholes were filled last week.



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