Potholes a costly problem for Berkshire drivers and communities


Photo Gallery: Pothole repair in Pittsfield

PITTSFIELD -- Edward Messer was hoping to use his tax refund to catch up on his gas and electric bill.

Then he hit a pothole.

Messer said he had to have his 2006 Dodge Stratus towed due to the extensive damage to his front end.

The repairs cost about $1,300.

"That definitely hurt," said Messer, 47, a resident of Lenox Avenue.

A longtime Pittsfield resident, he said the potholes this winter were "definitely the worst I've ever seen."

"You can't even drive anywhere in Pittsfield without hitting them," he said.

Across the Berkshires, workers are scrambling to make repairs after a particularly harsh winter left roads filled with potholes, which are causing costly damage to vehicles.

But local communities are getting a hand from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which announced this week that it was making $40 million available to patch up city, town and state roads.

The city of Pittsfield is stepping up its efforts to patch up the roads, which took a beating this winter. Pittsfield Commissioner of Public Utilities Bruce Collingwood said the opening of a local blacktop plant this week has allowed the city to accelerate patching. The city has a machine that allows it to produce blacktop through the winter. He hasn't estimated how much it will cost the city to do repairs to the roads.

This week, inmates from the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction were also helping out, working on Elm Street and other roads as part of a program run by the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office to fix potholes.

Pittsfield Highway and Garage Superintendent Peter Bruneau said icy conditions over the winter months led to water getting underneath the road surface and ripping the blacktop out.

"The amount of potholes is unbelievable," he said. "It's the worst I've seen in 15 years at least."

Collingwood said his department will respond to pothole complaints made on the city of Pittsfield's website within 48 hours. Right now, the highway department is focusing on Pomeroy Avenue, the scene of some major craters.

In Great Barrington, where there are 162 streets and approximately 78 miles of roads, Department of Public Works Superintendent Joe Sokul welcomed the news about the state funding.

"We'll take as much money as we can," he said.

Great Barrington budgeted $60,000 for patching roads, an amount that is separate from the amount budgeted for more extensive road repairs. This winter, the town also blew past its budgeted amount for sanding and salting, Sokul said.

He said his department is putting together a list of priorities for which roads need the most work. Sokul said the town relies in part on calls from residents. The Castle Hill area is getting worked on right now, he said.

"It's the worst winter in my six years here," he said.

Kim Lake, of Becket, said she hit a "huge pothole" near the Lee and Lenox Dale line, causing an estimated $1,500 damage to her vehicle.

Lake said she heard a "loud crack" after hitting the pothole. "It destroyed my suspension. I heard a huge grinding noise."

While her insurance paid for the expensive repairs to her vehicle, Lake said she will be stuck with a new insurance surcharge as a result, which she is appealing.

Her insurance went up from $60 a month to $109 a month after she claimed the damage, she said. She ended up trading in the car.

If she knew about the surcharge, Lake said, "I never would have gone through the insurance company."

To reach Nathan Mayberg:
or (413) 496-6243


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