Dr. Pave crew repairs road surface on Appian Way. Photo: Jason Ruiz
Potholes: they are the silent menace of the streets, the sneaky asphalt monsters that have caused many a rolled ankle, flat tire and near-death biking experience. And they can be attributed to the increasingly problematic road conditions in Los Angeles County.
However, the City of Long Beach may have found a new weapon to fight against the cyclical tyranny that is the fixing and re-fixing of divots in its roadways.
Dave Dworksy, CEO of Dr. Pave, a Gardena-based pothole repair company, is the newest addition to the city's road-improvement arsenal and his company started the process of healing the city’s streets last week. But this isn't your typical semi-permanent fill-er-up pothole repair service. Using a patented Heatwurx technology, Dr. Pave is a cost effective and eco-friendly alternative to traditional methods.
“In addition to the savings, you have a sense of permanency in the repair,” Dworsky said of the work his company offers.“This is not a patch, it’s a seamless, permanent repair.”
The process Dr. Pave offers is ahead of the curve. It utilizes a golf-cart-sized machine that uses infrared heat to melt the existing asphalt before adding recycled asphalt product (RAP) and a bonding agent to fill the void. The job--which takes a team of two men roughly about 30 minutes to complete--results in a water-tight seal that blends aesthetically with the surrounding asphalt within weeks. The seamless finish is key to keeping out moisture which is the culprit in many potholes. Dr. Pave’s website guarantees the work for 18 months.
The repairs are generally ready to be driven on within 20 minutes of completion and cost about $200-$300. The cost is kept low by eliminating the extra man hours that come with a typical repair, requiring a separate crew for cutting around the damaged asphalt out and others for hauling in new asphalt. The use of RAP also stops hot plants from having to fire up to make new asphalt, making Dr. Pave both efficient and environmentally friendly.
“We are depleting the carbon footprint tremendously,” said Justin Tanner, superintendent of quality control at Dr. Pave and the corporate trainer for Heatwurx. “We’re recycling what is there on the roadway and using the recycled RAP and all of our generators are tier-4 compliant with California State Laws and we’re using electric heat.”
Dworsky says the green element of Dr. Pave is significant to cities looking to reduce their environmental impact. According to the biennial California Statewide Local Streets and Roads Needs Assessment report, the State faces a daunting task of fixing its roads. Twenty-five percent of pavements in California were considered in failing condition as of May 2012 with budget shortfall projecting the gradual worsening of conditions.
The report showed the state needing to increase its annual budget by nearly $6 billion (to $7.23 billion) in order to bring the State’s roads to “excellent” condition. The report’s Pavement Condition Index rates the driving surfaces in the State on a scale from 0-100 (0=failing, 100=perfect). Los Angeles County’s roads were considered “at risk” with a PCI score of 66 in 2012 (California PCI=66), the last year information was available in the report, making lasting road improvements an immediate need.
Potholes are as annoying as they are costly to fix. Tanner, who served as a paving foreman for 11 years before joining Dr. Pave, knows the pitfalls of traditional pothole patching. Cold patching-the process of applying a ready-made polymer mix to damaged roads-can fail and cost tax payers money both in repeated repairs and damage to vehicles which is estimated at over $6 billion dollars a year by AAA.
Last year, education and advocacy group Transportation California proposed raising the vehicle license fee with all proceeds (an estimated $3 billion) going toward fixing roadways in the state. The proposal could appear on a ballet this fall. Unless the State’s budget increases dramatically, finding technology that prevents double spending will be essential to the health of the roadways both county and statewide.
“A lot of the cities I see doing their own work or the county and even the State are throwing cold mix into potholes and running it over with their tires or even letting traffic itself do the compacting,” Tanner said. “I see them back there a week later, a month later…it doesn’t last long and it’s a constant money pit.”