Pothole Repair

The City of Topeka Public Works Department is responsible for maintaining City streets. Filling potholes is one of the activities found in the Pavement Management Plan. Because potholes can pop up anytime anywhere, especially in wet and wintery weather, the response to potholes is considered stop-gap work to keep the streets serviceable.


Here are answers to some common questions Public Works receives:

What is up with all of the potholes in Topeka?
The 2018-2019 snow season has been a lot more active than during the past three snow seasons. Because of the multiple rain, snow and ice events, damage to City streets has been more severe. Damage occurs during and after the freeze-thaw cycle. Several weeks this snow season have seen five to 10 freeze thaw cycles – above freezing during the day; below freezing at night. Crews have filled over 6000 potholes this year through the third week in February.

What is the freeze thaw cycle?
During a freeze-thaw cycle, water from rain, melting ice or snow gets down into cracks and crevices in the surface pavement. When the pavement freezes, the pavement expands, weakening the surface. When it thaws, the pounding of tires breaks up the weakened pavement.

What do you do to fix potholes?
There are two processes and materials the City uses for pothole repairs depending on the time of the year:

  • During winter months, “cold-mix” asphalt is used because asphalt plants are closed and the supply of “hot-mix” asphalt is not available. Cold-mix is distributed out of the back of a pickup and tamped in by hand, creating a temporary patch. Patches made with cold-mix material is expected to be temporary. The patches are designed as a stop-gap measure during freezing temperatures to keep our streets serviceable.
  • During months when the temperatures stay mostly above freezing, hot mix asphalt is used by City crews to make permanent patches. It is kept hot until the repair is made. It is tamped into the hole using a vibrating plate.

How are potholes filled?
When a repair crew (typically two or three workers driving a pothole repair truck and one acting as “traffic control”) rolls up on pothole, the first step is to remove the debris in and around the pothole using shovels and compressed air. Then tack is placed in the hole (summer only) and the mix is placed in the hole. In colder weather, the material is tamped in by hand; in the summer by using a very heavy vibrating plate.

Will there ever be an end to potholes? Are we ever going to catch up?
No, but the amount of potholes in Topeka will diminish over time, provided that funding for streets is sufficient for a long-term Pavement Management Program. As long as there is moisture, water, freezing temperatures, and continuously aging street pavement, there will always be failing pavement somewhere in the 1600 lane miles of street in Topeka.

But we can gain on making repairs – either one at a time or thousands at a time.

Like mentioned above, filling potholes is a stop-gap measure to keep roads serviceable. It is one of the four road treatment strategies Topeka Public Works provides through its Pavement Management Program. It is part of the Full Depth Repairs and Stop Gap Measures strategy. The other three are:

  • Preventive Maintenance
  • Major Rehabilitation
  • Reconstruction

Tell me more about the City’s Pavement Management Strategies and when they are deployed
Here are the four strategies explained:

  1. Full Depth Repairs Stop Gap work: These strategies include temporary repairs such as pothole patching and strategic full depth patching to address localized severe pavement failures.
  2. Preventative Maintenance: These strategies include crack sealing, surface seals, and other non-structural techniques designed to extend the service life of existing pavements.
  3. Major Rehabilitation: these strategies include structural overlays, mill & overlays to significantly improve the service life of a pavement.
  4. Reconstruction: These strategies include complete reconstruction and other techniques that significantly improve or restore the original service life of a pavement.

When it comes to potholes, the Preventive Maintenance strategy is important to “keep our ‘good streets’ good. It is the city’s newest strategy, first implemented in 2018. Over 75 miles were crack sealed and micro-surfaced last year and about another 75 more miles will be treated in 2019.

Crack sealing and micro surfacing is the most cost effective and efficient way to prevent potholes and slowing down considerably street surface deterioration because it seals the cracks where water collects and freezes during the winter. The process only takes a half hour to an hour to apply. It can have traffic on it in about an hour and in most cases is completely cured in four hours. The process extends the life of the road by about 5 years. It may undergo another micro-surfacing or be milled and overlaid.

What are some examples of each strategy other than pothole filling?
A recent example of a Major Rehabilitation is SW Gage – 21st to 25th, which was completed in 2018. An example of Reconstruction is SE Adams – 29th to 33rd. Two projects this year will extend the Gage project from 25th to 29th and Adams from 33rd to 37th.

If I feel the city is responsible for damage incurred from hitting a pothole, how do I go about filing a claim?
The city has a formal claims process.

Reporting Issues

Pothole concerns can be reported in two ways:

  • Use SeeClickFix on the web, iPhone or Android
  • Call the City of Topeka at 785-368-3111

Event Communications

Media notifications of emergency parking bans, snow emergency declarations, road closures, and other contact for inquiries regarding road conditions will be made by the City Communications Department.

Media requests should be directed to Gretchen Spiker, Director of Communications.