CROWN POINT | The state and Lake County want to steer public outrage over potholes that swallowed Cline Avenue and caused headaches for drivers and flat tires away from themselves.
"They are a symptom of neglect of Cline Avenue and other state roads in the county," County Commission President Mike Repay, D-Hammond, complained Wednesday during a board of commissioners meeting dominated by the aftereffects of last week's winter storm.
Repay and other commissioners blame the Indiana Department of Transportation for what is being called the worst outbreak of pavement malfunction in decades.
Matt Deitchley, media relations director for INDOT's LaPorte District, blamed the weather and promised road crews are shoveling asphalt into the cavities as fast as they can. He acknowledged Cline is scheduled for major work this spring.
"Since Cline Avenue is so close to a resurfacing, the condition of the road is going to be more susceptible to potholes than other roadways," Deitchley said.
Repay complained, however, "The roads aren't potholed because it snowed or because of anything snowplow drivers did. It's INDOT and the misallocation of funds by the people down in Indianapolis. Cline is not being maintained properly. It is not acceptable, and I don't think the public should accept it, either."
Commissioners Roosevelt Allen, D-Gary, and Gerry Scheub, D-Crown Point, drove the same point in tandem. "Route 55 has potholes a foot deep. Driving down that state highway is dangerous," Scheub said of the state road that runs from Gary through Merrillville and Crown Point to Lowell.
Deitchley said, "INDOT crews have been working extra hours as they patch potholes across Northwest Indiana as quickly as possible, but the entire Northwest Indiana area was hit hard, and it’s a big job that will take time.
"During a typical winter, our crews are busy patching potholes, due to the constant freezing and thawing, which is the cause behind the formation of potholes. Last week’s winter storm with heavy snowfall and historically low temperatures ended with a 50-degree swing.
"The result was one of the worst outbreaks of potholes across our entire area that many of our crews have seen in decades. County and city roads are seeing serious pothole problems as well, not just INDOT-maintained highways," he said.
Deitchley said INDOT has spent about $450 million on road projects in Lake County alone since 2006.
"That’s the second most spent on any one county in the state," he said, adding the Cline Avenue resurfacing project this spring will cost $7.27 million, including bridge repair over Gary Avenue.
Commissioners had nothing but praise for their police and highway workers' efforts at rescuing dozens of stranded motorists and clearing snow-drifted roads last week.
Marcus Malczewski, county highway superintendent, said some of his snowplow drivers spent as many as three days on the job.
"The worst of it was there weren't any restaurants open," he said. The county will bill the state for $198,000 for overtime pay, fuel and material spent in road recovery."