Lurking beneath the snow that covers New Jersey’s roadways is another danger for unsuspecting motorists — potholes.
There’s been no shortage of those dreaded highway craters this unusually harsh winter.
Just how many? Well, no one can say for sure, but motorists will be able to keep an eye on a lot of them by using a new pothole website developed by an instructor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University.
“With the onslaught of snow and the weary winter weather, potholes are popping up everywhere on our roads and highways,” said Wansoo Im, the website creator.
Web users have reported hundreds of potholes since the mappler.net/njpothole site was launched on Feb. 20. More than 70 percent of the potholes have been characterized as “dangerous.”
Im said he hopes the pothole map will help motorists avoid hitting the craters and suffering the misfortune of getting a flat tire or breaking an axle. He also wants it to serve as a tool for local governments and their pothole-repair crews.
In addition to being a Rutgers planning instructor, Im heads the New Jersey-based Vertices LLC, a consulting and interactive mapping firm. He created a web-based gas station map in 2012 to help storm-struck locals track fuel availability on their smartphones following Hurricane Sandy.
Im’s pothole-warning website can be accessed through the Internet or the MapplerK mobile app on Apple or Android devices. It beckons motorists with the words, “Potholes wreaking havoc to your car? Map ’em.”
Website users can post the location of potholes and their size. They can also rate them as “minor” or “dangerous.” Plotted on the map in red, the dangerous potholes far exceed the minor ones, which are designated in yellow.
Exasperated motorists are making their frustrations clear in comments accompanying the potholes they have reported.
For instance, in Ocean County, one motorist makes ample use of exclamation marks to warn of a pothole-strewn stretch of Route 9 through the Cedar Run section of Stafford Township.
“The entire northbound length of Rt. 9 in Cedar Run needs immediate attention!!!” the motorist said. “There are still holes, and now we have bumps to go with them!!”
In Cumberland County, another motorist warns of dangerous potholes in the middle of the road coming off Route 77 in Upper Deerfield Township. “Bunch of potholes in a row. Be careful!” the motorist wrote.
Another motorist in Hamilton Township, Atlantic County, complained that the “entire length of Bears Head Road from Milmay to Mays Landing is dangerous.”
Atlantic County is planning to repave Bears Head Road this spring as part of a $2.6 million improvement project for a nearly five-mile stretch of the heavily traveled artery that connects Atlantic and Cumberland counties. Atlantic County spokeswoman Linda Gilmore said the project is awaiting approvals from state and federal highway agencies before work begins.
For Walter Cipkins, the work can’t begin soon enough. The 81-year-old Millville retiree said he has suffered two flat tires while traveling along a pothole-ridden section of Bears Head Road.
“It’s horrible. It’s beyond belief,” said Cipkins. “You can’t believe how big the potholes are. You could lose a horse, not a car.”
Cipkins uses Bears Head Road for trips to his church in Egg Harbor Township, the Hamilton Mall in Mays Landing and to visit with his grandchildren in Somers Point. He noted that he has been complaining to government authorities for about two years in hopes of getting the road fixed. When told of Atlantic County’s repaving project, he responded skeptically.
“I’ve heard that already for two years,” he said. “Nobody has been doing anything for two years.”
As winter transitions into spring, the roadways go through freeze-thaw cycles that create potholes. When snow from Monday’s storm melts, a whole new crop of potholes will be revealed. Severe winter weather has produced extraordinarily high numbers of potholes on state highways, creating hazardous conditions for motorists, according to the New Jersey Department of Transportation.
In response, the NJDOT has launched a campaign that will extend into the spring to repair potholes across the state.
“This has been a brutal winter that has taken a heavy toll on our roads, but I want to assure New Jersey residents that we are focusing all available resources to make repairs as quickly as possible,” Transportation Commissioner James Simpson said in a statement.
Highway officials have increasingly turned to the public for help in keeping track of potholes. NJDOT allows motorists to report potholes by calling 800-POTHOLE or going on the web at www.state.nj.us/transportation/commuter/potholeform.shtm.
NJDOT typically repairs about 160,000 potholes per year. Over just the past five months, it has filled about 100,000 potholes, underscoring the severity of the problem.
©2014 The Press of Atlantic City (Pleasantville, N.J.)