Pothole Patching

Safe Streets

The City of Lincoln maintains its streets and repairs potholes all year long. Pothole severity is connected to the repetition of freezing and thawing water. Cities like Lincoln are more prone to potholes based on extreme weather changes in the spring, summer and fall seasons.

What causes a pothole?

Water enters the cracks in the street.

Water freezes and expands, forcing the cracks to expand in the street.

Water thaws, leaving voids under the pavement.

The weight of vehicles breaks the pavement which then collapses to form a pothole.

The Process

Lincoln Transportation and Utilities (LTU) crews examine streets and areas that need attention daily. Weather permitting, each crew is estimated to repair 100 to 150 potholes per day dependent on the distance between each pothole. LTU crews repair an average of 50,000 potholes per year.

Crews use a cold patching material that is ideal for damp surfaces and produces temporary repairs until more permanent pavement solutions can be implemented. This allows crews to increase efficiency and repair additional potholes during increased freeze–thaw weather cycles.

LTU has four pothole spray injection patching vehicles that allow one crew member to do the work that previously required four. Pothole spray injection patching vehicles can be used when the street temperature is 40 degrees or warmer. They use a hot material and offer longer-lasting repairs, are economical, and increase safety. Team members are able to operate the machines and repair potholes while sitting inside the trucks and out of high traffic areas.

Watch: Pothole spray injection patching demo (4:52) Watch: Pothole crew (2:40)

YouTube video Watch: Pothole PSA (0:16)

Frequently Asked Questions

How is a pothole created?

Potholes are created(PNG, 46KB) when water gets into cracks in the pavement, the water freezes and expands repeatedly creating a gap or void under the pavement. When vehicles drive over the weakened area, the weight of the vehicles break the pavement creating a pothole.

Does the City have a plan to keep up with pothole repairs?

The City plans for and repairs potholes all year long. During months of increased freeze–thaw weather cycles like February, March and April, the City commits additional resources to pothole repairs to maintain streets at a faster rate.

How does the City of Lincoln repair potholes?

The City repairs potholes by using four spray injection patching vehicles(JPG, 315KB) and pothole crews(JPG, 209KB) made up of three or four team members.

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There are two different ways the City repairs potholes. The first is by using the City’s four spray injection patching vehicles. A single team member can operate the vehicle. This is the City's primary tool used year-round to fill and repair potholes with a hot material whenever conditions are dry and pavement temperatures are 40 degrees or warmer. This tool is economical with increased efficiency, offers longer-lasting repairs, and increases safety for team members.

When temperatures do not allow for the use of the hot material or during times of the year when the number of potholes requires additional support, a small group of team members repair potholes with a cold material. This method allows the City to continue to provide efficient service to its citizens at an increased rate.

What are spray injection patching vehicles, and how do they work?

Spray injection patching vehicles are efficient and safe pothole repair machines that can repair 100 potholes or more per day. These trucks work well year-round and are economical as they only require one team member for operation.

Pothole spray injection patching vehicles are efficient tools for the City. First the operator uses compressed air to clean out debris from the area to be patched. Then, a sticky asphalt emulsion seals the sub-surface and creates a strong bond between the existing roadway material and the patching fill. Next, aggregate coated with liquid asphalt (looks like black gravel), is poured into the hole. It fills into all of the voids and hardens into a very strong patch. Finally, the top is covered with regular gravel so the patch can be immediately driven over while the asphalt sets. The entire operation happens with our team member safely in the cab of the vehicle.

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Four spray injection patching vehicles are Lincoln Transportation and Utilities’ primary tool used year-round when street temperatures are 40 degrees or higher. These specialized trucks use a hot material that offer longer-lasting pothole repairs. The trucks also increase efficiency, safety for team members and are economical.

Spray injection patching vehicles allow for one team member and vehicle to do the same amount of work that a typical pothole crew of four people and two vehicles do. Depending on the distance between potholes, a spray patching truck can repair 100 potholes or more per day.

Do some streets get prioritized before others when filling potholes?

Yes. Arterial streets are prioritized first. Residential streets are prioritized second.

How do I report a pothole?

To submit a pothole request for service, go to UPLNK.lincoln.ne.gov.

How fast will the pothole I reported be fixed?

Many individual requests for service during warmer months are completed within one to three business days, typically faster than the City’s defined five business day level of service. During colder peak pothole months, the City uses UPLNK service requests to evaluate and find trends to identify the street routes that need immediate attention first. When crews conduct pothole repairs during this time, they fill all potholes on the street, not only the ones that have been reported.

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Weather events throughout the year require the City to prioritize repairs by street and not by individual potholes during peak periods. During these high pothole repair times typically seen in February, March and April, the City evaluates service requests to see which streets need immediate attention. Crews then repair all potholes on that street before moving to another. This increases efficiency of the repair process.

During non-peak pothole times of the year, typically during warmer weather months, crews can respond to individual pothole service requests to maintain Lincoln’s streets.

The City of Lincoln prioritizes pothole repairs on arterial streets first and residential streets second. This is because arterial streets are where the City’s efforts have the greatest impact to community safety and driving conditions due to high traffic volumes. Once caught up on arterial streets, the City will address citywide requests.

How many potholes does Lincoln repair a year?

Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Operations and Maintenance division fills an average of 50,000 potholes a year.

Are pothole repairs a long-term solution?

No, pothole repairs are temporary solutions.

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Pothole repairs assist with maintaining and extending the life of Lincoln’s streets. Although repairs are not long-term solutions, repairs are the best solutions until long-term street improvements can be completed.

The best long-term solution is timely street improvement and preservation. Lincoln voters are prioritizing street repairs through the voter-approved Lincoln on the Move street investment that will allow Lincoln Transportation and Utilities to complete more than 50 improvement, preservation and growth street projects through 2024. These projects would not be possible without this community support. Thank you, Lincoln! For more information on Lincoln on the Move, go to streets.lincoln.ne.gov.

Does Lincoln have more pothole issues than other cities?

Cities in northern climates with impactful seasonal weather are more prone to experience potholes than their warmer southern neighbors. The severity of potholes is dependent on the number of freeze-thaw cycles Lincoln sees annually.

Does the City receive a lot of service requests for potholes every year?

No.

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In 2020, Lincoln Transportation and Utilities (LTU) received about 1,100 requests to repair potholes, but crews filled more than 42,000. The City encourages people to report a pothole to UPLNK.lincoln.ne.gov. Rest assured though, if you do not do this, crews are actively repairing potholes across Lincoln. The City is not dependent on service requests.

In 2019, LTU received 6,933 requests and filled more than 83,000 potholes.

Where does funding for pothole repairs come from?

Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Department’s Operations and Maintenance budget.

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The funding for pothole repairs comes from the Lincoln Transportation and Utilities Operations and Maintenance budget. Funding is made up of state gas tax and Street Improvement Vehicle Tax also known as the wheel tax. The City utilizes the funds received as outlined by the City’s Municipal Code.

What is the budget for potholes?

On average, the City invests about $1 million per year to repair an average of 50,000 potholes. Costs are subject to how many freeze-thaw weather cycles Lincoln experiences each winter. Some years, the City invests more when Lincoln experiences a tough winter. Other years, the City invests less during mild winters.


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