The Washington, D.C. Department of Transportation began its eighth annual Potholepalooza campaign April 1, incorporating more technology — including traffic tracking data and interactive maps — this year to increase resident involvement.
Potholepalooza is a six-week, city-wide event in which potholes reported by residents are filled in within 48 hours instead of the 72-hour period standard for the rest of the year.
According to the DDOT, more than 64,000 potholes have been filled across the District since the first Potholepalooza in 2009; approximately 6,000 of those requests were addressed during last year’s Potholepalooza alone. During the campaign, the department deploys extra crews for the entire month of April,
Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) announced Potholepalooza at a joint press conference with Councilmember Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) last Friday. Bowser also initiated the campaign by tamping asphalt into one of the city’s potholes.
“We know we need to do better,” Bowser said. “We know that we need to make the resources available so that we have a consistent program to get our residential streets in the state of good repair that we all expect.”
This year’s Potholepalooza marks the inception of several technological changes. Though the campaign has engaged residents and allowed them to report potholes through social media since 2009, this year the DDOT is using the Google application Waze to track traffic data in order to prioritize pothole inspections.
Residents can also track the progress of pothole repair in their area and around the District through interactive maps available on the DDOT website.
The DDOT spokesperson Michelle Phipps-Evans said the department has benefitted from using these maps in past projects, and is successfully applying them to their Potholepalooza this year.
“As a tool, we find that these interactive maps give residents a better sense of how work is progressing, and it provides more transparency as an agency,” Phipps-Evans wrote in an email to The Hoya. “Last July, we began to track ongoing repairs to our alleys in our first Alleypalooza campaign. This was so well received that we began to create this GIS [geographical information system] mapping for our Potholepalooza campaign. So far, the interactive maps have been well received.”
Bowser addressed the use of technology in this year’s initiative in a press release March 25, highlighting the ability of the new measures to improve Potholepalooza’s efficiency.
“Today, we are taking a fresh approach to pothole repairs in the District,” Bowser wrote. “By adopting new strategies and technologies we are better able to identify potholes, repair them quickly and ensure residents can drive on District roads that are smooth, comfortable and, most importantly, safe.”
Georgetown Business Improvement District Transportation Director Will Handsfield said the BID is impressed by the change Potholepalooza has affected so far, and expressed hope that it will continue to directly engage District residents.
“The Georgetown BID is very encouraged by DDOT’s continuing efforts to maintain and improve the conditions of our area roadways. Potholepalooza, now in its seventh year, has shown real success in meeting that need,” Handsfield said. “We’re very encouraged by the technical improvements that they have added to the program to make us more user friendly and more accurate.”
The DDOT is also implementing a central tracking system for District potholes — a departure from the individualized tracking system of previous years, in which different crews across the city tracked projects specific to their areas.
Phipps-Evans said the change came from a desire to ensure the campaign remains as efficient as possible in the coming years.
“DDOT wanted to have a better close-out process in place to record work that’s being done within our performance timeframes and parameters,” Phipps-Evans wrote. “Having all potholes tracked and closed within one system, and closed in the field, offers a more realistic timeframe for completion and reduces the possibility of having extended timelines to complete service requests.”
This year’s campaign is also shifting crews who normally deal with inclement weather to filling potholes, allowing the DDOT to begin the process approximately two weeks earlier than previous years.
Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) expressed support for Potholepalooza and praised the DDOT’s continued attention to city infrastructure.
“The care and maintenance of our roadways – streets, sidewalks and alleys – has been and continues to be one of my top concerns on the Council,” Evans wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I’m pleased that Mayor Bowser and the DC Department of Transportation are continuing the well-publicized Potholepalooza effort, while the city continues to undertake more serious rehabilitation work on roads in very poor shape.”
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