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L.I. Asphalt Factory Tries To Keep Pace With Demand In Fight Against Potholes

MELVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – With the spring thaw, dodging potholes is unavoidable. But those road craters create a whole other set of challenges—asphalt factories can now barely keep pace.

As CBS2's Jennifer McLogan reported, a chute-like contraption at a factory in Melville drops five tons of fresh, steaming, scorching black asphalt bound for Long Island roads.

"(What do you call the goopy stuff?) The black stuff that makes it sticky is called liquid asphalt concrete," James Haney, general manager of Rason Asphalt, said. "Three hundred degrees. We remove all the moisture and get it to a temperature where it is workable for crews to finish potholes with it."

Despite its overpowering stench, asphalt is a hot commodity and the No. 1 defense to battle the pothole epidemic wrecking roads, tires and rims.

Asphalt factory in Melville
(Credit: CBS2)

At the factory, conveyer belts attach to silos in constant motion, adjacent to heating tanks with gravel from upstate going into a dryer that can reach 400 degrees.  The dryer takes out all the dampness before the petroleum-based liquid "black gold" is squirted in.

Municipalities report a 40-65 percent pothole increase over last winter due to the damaging long freeze and quick thaw cycle. Water and salt seep into cracks, turn into ice and expand, breaking the asphalt and creating craters.

With the snow budgets wiped out, repairs must go on, McLogan reported.

"We are declaring war on potholes," Nassau County Executive Ed Mangano said.

Nassau County announced a new pothole plan in which local villages and towns will share complaints in real time so crews can be dispatched with urgency.

But what's ruining road repair reserves delights asphalt makers now that triple the daily trucks need refills.

"(We all seem to hate a cold winter, but it's good for business.) In the long-term it is good for business," Haney said.

This year, April is shaping up to be the worst month for pothole crews, McLogan reported.

The later thaw means many more potholes have yet to erupt.

Crews cannot apply hot asphalt in frigid weather so repairs depend on daily temperatures.

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