Menomonee Parkway a victim of potholes, crumbling pavement

Jon Olson
A lone runner is the only sign of life on Menomonee Parkway over the weekend. The road was closed because of deteriorating pavement.
Published on: 2/26/2014

Clear streets and a few days without snowfall have revealed a fresh crop of potholes on Wauwatosa and Milwaukee County roads.

Menomonee River Parkway, scheduled for rebuilding over the next two summers, is so ragged that the county late last week closed a segment from Hoyt Park Drive to Church Street, with another barricade preventing cars from entering off Charles Hart Parkway.

'We've had a severe delamination of pavement with the thaw that happened over Wednesday and Thursday (last week),' Jill Organ, the county's assistant chief of planning, said.

The road was shut down midday Feb. 20, she said, and repairs are dependent on temperatures.

'We have to wait for the appropriate weather for the materials to properly repair it. In this kind of weather, when we fill it up with cold patch, it'll pop right back out again,' Organ said.

Updates and a map of the closure are provided low on the county website at Homes within the closure are still accessible, Organ said.

A county official viewing the site had seen cars veering out of their lane to avoid the spots of bad pavement, creating dangerous conflicts in traffic, Organ said.

The city administrators, and police, fire, public works and engineering departments were notified.

'The road is falling apart,' confirmed city operations superintendent Mike Kreiter.

'With the liabability of pavement being bad in there, I can't blame them for wanting to close it,' he said.

North Avenue a challenge

Kreiter has problems of his own, although none as severe as Menomonee Parkway.

'We've only got a couple of real needy spots,' he said.

North Avenue from Menomonee Parkway to about 100th Street has been patched 'about every other day,' Krieter said. Other problems on North have shown up on either side of the Highway 45 overpass, from Mayfair Road to about 117th Street. North gets about 25,000 cars a day, he said, and the freezing and thawing cycle beats it up.

The intersection of North Avenue and Mayfair Road, newly rebuilt by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, is holding up well.

'With all that new concrete there I don't think Mayfair in that section and Watertown Plank Road (also rebuilt) are going to be anything to worry about in the near future,' he said.

State Street from the Village east to about 68th Street is another problem area, he said.

Using 'cold mix'

Kreiter said patchwork in cold weather is accomplished using 'cold mix' asphalt.

A heated bed in a city truck keeps the asphalt at 180 degrees, and it's shoveled by hand into cracks and holes in the pavement, tamped down and into place. It fills the hole but doesn't necessarily adhere, because the ground is so cold, he said.

'It's a temporary repair until the summer when we can use hot mix on it,' Kreiter said.

Crews out doing the repairs sometimes have to repair holes they'd already repaired, as well as new problems as pavement breaks away.

'With frost in the ground, any moisture that gets in there, it expands and the areas that are ... loose, they'll blow up with the traffic beating on them — and you got a new hole.'

Shoveled by hand

The extreme cold of this winter has exacerbated the annual pothole problem, he said.

The city budgets for road repair, and whether the frequent repairs of this year will have budget ramifications won't be known until November, Kreiter said.

Cold mix asphalt itself — made of petroleum, sand and small aggregate, fractured stone — costs $100 a ton, and it goes quick. It takes a ton or two tons to repair the street after a water main break, he said. Crews repairing North Avenue sometimes use two to four tons in a single day — all of it applied by hand with a shovel.

'It's a tedious process,' Kreiter said.