The drenching rains that have fallen on Austin this year have provided sizable benefits: Reservoirs are recovering, lawns are green, and this summer will be cooler as a result. (Maybe a little more humid, too.)
But there are, of course, downsides to the rain, most notably the serious damage to lives and property from flooding. Austin’s infrastructure is taking a hit, too, and you don’t have to go far to find it. It’s right underneath you.
Yes, we’re talking about potholes. Those holes in the road form thanks to two things: water and traffic, both of which Austin has plenty of lately.
As massive amounts of rain have fallen on Austin, the number of potholes has gone way up, nearly doubling. But Austin’s Public Works Department says as long as they know about them, they can fix them. And fairly quickly.
“We have a performance measure by which we track the response time to go out there and address that pothole repair. One is within 24 hours and the other is within 48 hours," says city engineer David Magana.
He says that if a pothole is deemed hazardous (a pothole that could impact driving), it gets fixed within 24 hours. If it’s not hazardous, it gets fixed within 48. A review of Public Works records by KUT shows that the promised response time of 24-48 hours turns out to be pretty accurate.
And they're busier than ever. Last October, for instance, the city had 106 potholes they responded to that month. This May, they fixed 526 of them.
Magana also says after the city launched a 311 mobile app, they started to see more potholes being reported. But on top of that, the intense rains have meant much bumpier roads this year.
The city says if you see a pothole, give them a call at 311 or use the 311 app, or call Public Works directly at 512-974-8777. And Magana cautions against a trend that's starting to pop up in other cities, "pothole gardening," where flowers are temporarily planted in a pothole, usually after citizens become fed up waiting for them to be fixed by the city.
"I wish people wouldn't do that, because it puts them in a position of being hit by a vehicle, obviously," Magana says. "We would encourage that they call or use the phone app for it to be repaired."
Below is a map of service requests filed to Austin's Public Works Department from the beginning of the year through June 22. Five-hundred seventy of the 2,161 requests this year, just over a quarter, were filed last month, the wettest May on record.