Filling potholes a never-ending task for Lawrence streets crew


Where there are roads, there are potholes. Even the nicest, newest road can develop them.

All it takes is a little crack in the asphalt where water can get in before a freeze. Water expands when it freezes, which widens the crack and weakens the asphalt around it, and then cars drive over that weak spot and break up the surface even more. And there you have it: pothole.

Jim Heneghan is the City of Lawrence Streets Department Director. He said fixing potholes on the city’s 210 miles of road  is a never-ending process for his department. It even has a portal on the city’s website where residents can report potholes, he said.

“We actually print those out and use them as work orders,” he said. “We keep a spreadsheet of what we’ve filled and when.”

Heneghan said the department filled about 2,000 potholes in April alone. When it gets a report of a “chuckhole,” as he calls them, the department doesn’t just fill the one that was reported; crews go through the entire neighborhood and fills as many as they can find.

It’s not just a matter of throwing some asphalt mix into a hole. Heneghan said crews use a blower first to blow out all the debris, and then put in the asphalt and tamp it down. In the wintertime and early spring, they use “cold mix,” which stays tacky. That helps it stay in place, kind of, through the colder months.

Later in spring and into summer, crews use a more permanent “hot mix,” which compacts better and holds for a longer time.

When a street has a lot of potholes in a row, Heneghan said they strip patch it, instead. That involves removing sections of the asphalt and replacing it. They also do crack-sealing, in hopes of keeping water from getting into the cracks and creating future potholes.

But eventually, there will always be more potholes, he said.

“You win some battles, but you won’t win the war,” Heneghan joked.

To report a pothole or other maintenance issue within the City of Lawrence, go to