Minneapolis potholes uncover city's old brick streets and streetcar lines

If you feel like potholes are particularly bad this year, you're not wrong.

"This year, I think it's worse than any year that I've seen in over 10 years living in Minneapolis," said Mike Norton.

Norton became frustrated by an especially bad stretch of potholes at the intersection of Hennepin and Lake, which is near his office. His tweet about the potholes, which has now viewed more than 200,000 times, highlighted the brick road and street car lines revealed underneath.

"There's potholes everywhere in the city right now, but when I saw the metal kind of shining out underneath the surface, a little piece of history there underneath the eroding streets," Norton said.

Mayor Jacob Frey told FOX 9 public works officials are doing an "incredible job" managing pothole issues.

Though Joe Paumen, the Minneapolis director of transportation, maintenance and repair, admits this winter has had challenges.

"We saw a number of days in January in particular where we had freeze-thaw cycles every day," Paumen said.

Minneapolis officials said they are seeing more potholes this year than usual, and they thanked residents for their feedback. Another challenge for the city is the same workers who clear snow off roadways are the ones patching potholes.

"It would certainly help if it would stop snowing, but it snows in March and our crews are ready to address that," Paumen said. "When it's snowing, that does take away from crews that could be filling potholes."

Dr. Manik Barman, an associate professor who teaches infrastructure materials and pavement engineering-related courses at the University of Minnesota Duluth, said the colder temperatures at night, warmer temperatures during the day and heavy snowfall have created the perfect storm for potholes.

"That water can go into the pavement through cracks, through microcracks easily. So this year, we have seen that problem, and we are expecting more potholes," he said.

He also said Minnesota’s harsh climate makes the roads more susceptible to these pavement cracks.

"The temperature difference between the warm months in the summer and the coldest months in the winter is so huge. So the material that we use in asphalt pavement … has to be resilient for the hot temperatures as well as for the cold temperatures," he explained. 

Minneapolis Public Works crews patch the holes using a cold mix, which is a temporary solution until they can use asphalt.

"We expect asphalt plants to open around the first of April, and that's when we can really put all of our forces toward filling those potholes," Paumen said.

City officials urge people to call 311 to identify areas that need crews’ attention. Paumen said if drivers can provide details, such as how deep a hole is, that is helpful information.