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Road conditions fair in Pine River, Backus

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Spring thaws in Pine River and Backus revealed potholes at city intersections, but no more than any other year.

In spite of tall snowdrifts and long cold spells, roads in Backus and Pine River are only a little worse for wear. In Pine River, public works director Mike Hansen is seeing potholes and road damage in familiar places.

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“It hasn’t been terrible here in town. We have a couple infamous intersections that typically are flooded in the springtime and that’s where we have our pothole problems,” Hansen said. “We’ve had a few outside of those areas, but nothing major yet.”

Among the most infamous of these intersections is that of Highway 371 and Jefferson Street. Hansen said water tends to pool in this intersection and causes trouble when it freezes.

“Wherever you have that water sitting on the road, it’s going to freeze and thaw out during the day and get into the cracks and freeze again and push more tar out. So it just kind of compounds itself,” he said.

When intersections become damaged, the city puts out road cones as a preliminary step to alert drivers of the potholes. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to repair these areas immediately, as water must drain out of potholes before they can be patched. Once that is done, city workers fill the potholes with heated repair mix.

“It is just dealing with the thawing, and that’s a local every-year thing, so nothing out of the ordinary,” Hansen said.

In Backus, the story is much the same, though Lee Bundy, Backus city water/sewer operator, suggests the city streets benefit from being in a light traffic area.

“Potholes form on well traveled routes, but because it is very light traffic in the city of Backus, the only problem area we have would be Hazel Street North and Park Avenue,” Bundy said.

The problems at Hazel Street and Park Avenue also stem from the age of the road materials and the surface below, Bundy said.

“When you get spongy soil underneath the road it helps to break it up. That’s what we have in that spot. And that’s the worst place in Backus as far as that goes,” Bundy said. “It’s the annual trouble spot, and we’ve had to put up a couple of extra signs in the area restricting heavy traffic because of that break up.”

Bundy stresses that it is important for people to slow down in areas where potholes are prevalent. Reduced speed will not only protect the road from further damage, but it is also safer for motorists.

In both cities, future projects are being considered to increase drainage in problem areas to prevent pooling water that could lead to potholes. Until that time, motorists should be on the lookout for potholes and call in any problem areas.

“People just need to know it’s that time of the year. If they see a bad intersection there are other roads that lead to the other spot that they are going,” Hansen said.

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