It wasn’t just a pothole. It was massive hole — 2-by-3 feet — that allowed seeing all the way through the deck of an Interstate 15 bridge to the street below.
It closed the freeway near 800 South recently for what turned out to be a quick fix but spectacularly kicked off the annual spring pothole season in Utah. So The Salt Lake Tribune asked readers to point out other places where potholes are nasty. A partial list follows.
But first a brief explanation from Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Zach Whitney about why potholes become a problem every spring.
“Potholes appear about this time of year because of the freeze-thaw cycle. In winter, when everything is frozen, things stay put. When thaws and freezing happen, it breaks up,” Whitney said. “Formation of holes can happen really quickly.” For example, the big I-15 hole seems to have happened within days, and an inspection of the bridge last year found no problems.
Roads are designed to drain water to prevent it from seeping inside, but that doesn’t always work, especially in wet winters like this year, Whitney said. While crews apply sealant on roads to prevent water seepage, salt used for snow and ice removal tends to eat through that sealant over time — a problem in snowy winters like the one we’ve just had.
If motorists notice potholes or other problems on state highways or freeways, they can use UDOT’s Click 'n Fix app to report it — and crews will be sent to look at it and possibly make temporary cold-patch repairs. Problems on local roads should be reported to cities.
As a sign of how cities may respond, consider a pothole near Westminster College that one reader joked is so big it would require “a team of experienced climbers to repel in” to rescue victims. By the time The Tribune arrived, it could find no such hole — but saw several apparent recent patches there.
Here are some of the worst pothole areas that readers report so far:
• Fuller Avenue in Salt Lake City, off 1100 East about 450 South. It is easily the worst reported by readers so far. “It looks like a war zone,” shelled by artillery, resident Phillip Ringwood said.
It has numerous potholes more than a foot deep. Some are big enough that trash blown into them stuck to the muddy bottoms and hasn’t budged. The tire tracks of some unlucky victims are visible in the muddy bottoms of some of the largest holes.
“You have to drive as if you are off-roading — swerving side to side to avoid holes," Ringwood said. “Only one vehicle can negotiate the road at a time.”
• Redondo Avenue, just north of 2100 South between 600 East and 700 East in Salt Lake City. It looks like a top asphalt layer has mostly eroded down to concrete or even rocks. It has plenty of holes where chunks of pavement have broken up and disappeared — even though it has some apparent recent patches.
“Numerous potholes of varying sizes and depths make for a rough drive and an even rougher ride by bike,” said resident Brooke Stanislawski. But unlike Fuller Avenue, most of the potholes are relatively small, although numerous.
• 2700 South in Salt Lake City Several readers complained about it, especially in areas between 1300 East and 2000 East. It has several stretches of long lines of small potholes that make for a bumpy ride.
Matthew Rojas, spokesman for Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski, said the city plans to rebuild that road, with work to start soon. “So it doesn’t make sense to repair potholes with that coming,” he said, adding that street is in the area of the city which has generated the most complaints.
“People drive to the side of the road to avoid the potholes,” said area resident Ian Hiscock. “That makes the bicycles ride up on the sidewalk.”
Don Nash added, “You have to drive out of the lane to avoid totally rattling your shock absorbers and ruining tires.”
• Highland Drive in Salt Lake City and Millcreek in stretches between 2700 South and 4500 South. It has numerous lines of small potholes strung together in spots, and a few significant ones — such as in its intersection with Richmond Avenue.
“It’s horrible,” Paul Young said. “People swerve into other lanes to avoid them.”
• 2100 South at 1100 East in Sugar House. Actually, readers didn’t point out this one. But driving around to sites they suggested led us to bump our way through this one. Parts of the intersection are more like a loose collection of potholes than actual pavement.
• 4100 South in West Valley City between 4000 West and 7200 West. Road construction in the area may make it worse. But several places have some seriously deep potholes. "It messed up our control arms on our Cadillac,” one reader said.
• 7200 West from 4100 South to 3500 South on the border of West Valley City and Magna. It has numerous stretches where groups of potholes seem to flock together. One reader called it “potholes like crazy.”
• State Street near 4500 South. It's rough, but holes are not too deep. “It's crumbling,” Paul Young said. “I hit it every day.”
• 900 East between 2100 South and 4500 South. It is bumpy, with plenty of small holes in spots. “It’s impossible to drive down it without ruining your suspension,” said William Wilson.
• Hawthorne Avenue in Salt Lake City. It’s a dead-end street lined by small houses, just off 500 East at 550 South. Residents say damage by city garbage trucks plus lack of maintenance through the years have created some monster potholes.