A reader says deep potholes along Faircrest Road and several others in North Asheville have gone untended for months, with some of them reaching depths of eight to 10 inches. The city says it's doing the best it can with a limited staff - the city has just one patch truck and crew, covering five to 10 streets per day. // Courtesy photo

Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:

Question: Our neighborhood has a lot of potholes that are on city roads. They have been reported multiple times over the last several months but no fix, and now they are eight to 10 inches deep. We are all concerned someone will get hurt or significant car damage will occur. Does the city have any responsibility to fix these in a timely manner? Four months seems excessive to me. I am personally concerned about Faircrest Road, the section between Woodbury and Brookcliff. On our north Asheville Facebook page, the neighbors said they have sent requests for these streets: Kent Place, Country Club/Griffing. Why is this taking so long?

My answer: Just eight to 10 inches deep? The city doesn’t get involved until a pothole can swallow a Mini Cooper whole.

Real answer: Magically, after I sent these questions to the city, I got one more email from the reader above, on July 24: “The city arrived late today and filled some in.”

She included a smiley face. Nice work, Asheville!

I did get a quite thorough answer from the city of Asheville on this query, courtesy of spokesperson Kim Miller.

“Our streets and sidewalks are under more stress as the city continues to grow,” Miller said. “These stresses are present across the city, making the ability of the City of Asheville crews to respond challenging due to the number of potholes and/or sidewalk conditions needing to be addressed. Reduced staff numbers and inflation also add to those stressors.”

With its current staffing, Asheville has just one patch truck and crew available to respond to pothole requests.

A pothole along Faircrest Road filled with pine needles as it and several others in North Asheville went untended for months. The city eventually repaired the hole. // Courtesy photo

“That team is able to cover five to 10 streets per day, generally prioritizing pothole repairs by when they are received, and severity,” Miller said. “The current work order list is around 400, with an average of five new potholes called in daily.”

Focusing on more comprehensive repairs — a hard asphalt repair versus a cold patch — “can result in longer wait times, but a significantly more robust repair that extends the life of that surface,” Miller noted.

The roads the reader listed above are not on future resurfacing lists for 2023, although Miller said, “There is some flexibility in the repair list for the following year.”

In a “big picture” sense, the long-term answer lies in the city’s “ability to do comprehensive repairs on a larger scale, such as repaving entire sections of streets,” Miller said. “This is a function of our Capital program and our current bond program that is nearing the end of its time.”

Miller said the Public Works/Street Division staff made “significant gains in resurfacing with the combination of capital and bond funds.

“Ideally, our community would be in favor of another round of bond projects in the future,” Miller said. “The two funding sources combined certainly accelerated our ability to improve the overall health of our street and sidewalk networks and improve the quality of life for our citizens and visitors alike.”

In this case, I’m glad the squeaky pothole got the asphalt, so to speak.

Question: My wife and I were on our way to Biltmore Village from north Asheville recently and encountered an older teen on an electric scooter in the right southbound lane on Merrimon, approaching I-240. His speed was very slow and was impeding traffic. I am curious as to whether an electric scooter is able to use a street that has sidewalks available? I can understand on lower traffic roads with no sidewalks, but high-volume roads that are designated U.S. highways seem inappropriate for electric scooters, or any scooter. Is this something the Answer Man can answer?

My answer: I have been sorely tempted to try riding these scooters or those Onewheel things, as they really do look like fun. But for some reason my family keeps reminding me that my knee still bothers me from dumping a motorcycle in our neighborhood at 25 mph a few years ago. Perhaps I should heed their advice and avoid motorized devices smaller than a car.

Real answer: This one gets a little tricky, mainly because the speed limit along Merrimon changes from 35 mph in the Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods area to 20 mph at Marcellus Street, right by the Shell gas station and I-240.

Asheville Police Department spokesperson Samantha Booth explained that the speed limit plays a key role here. According to the applicable state statute, Booth said, “an electric scooter falls under the category of an electric personal assistive mobility device.

That statute “states that the device may be operated on public highways with posted speeds of 25 mph or less, sidewalks, and bicycle paths,” Booth said. “In addition, there is no local ordinance regulating the time, place, and manner of the operation of electric personal assistive mobility devices.”

So, the way I read this, the scooter operator was fine in the 20 mph zone, but not so in the 35 mph area.

Somebody operating such a device also is supposed to “yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other human-powered devices,” according to the statute. Further, the law states the operator of such a device has all the “rights and duties of a pedestrian…”

I’m sure this was frustrating for the motorists, but I would just remind drivers that even if you see someone riding a scooter where they aren’t allowed, be patient and safely move around them.

Asheville Watchdog is a nonprofit news team producing stories that matter to Asheville and Buncombe County. Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at  jboyle@avlwatchdog.org or 828-337-0941. To show your support for this vital public service go to avlwatchdog.org/donate.

8 replies on “Answer Man: Why can’t the city fix potholes faster? Road rules for electric scooters?”

  1. Re: Pot holes. I tried to list a pot hole on the Asheville app and the request was denied stating the location was not a City Street. This is a relatively main road that is a high priority road to be plowed for snow removal but not inside the City ?

    1. Most major arteries within City limits are maintained by NCDOT (think Hendersonville Rd, Long Shoals Rd, Tunnel Rd, Merrimon Ave, 240) so if there is a pothole or an issue with the pavement, they are responsible for fixing it. You can see the list of City maintained roads here (https://drive.google.com/file/d/1oICXOqv8mVGW6yUTzyTkUXHf24Ii_S58/view). It is linked on the City’s website.

      In the event of winter weather, the City helps NCDOT by treating Priority 1 roads (often maintained by DOT) as NCDOT is often prioritizing major highways elsewhere out in the counties. I think the City bills NCDOT for the costs incurred. This situation is pretty typical across the state with other municipalities. It’s in the City’s best interest to get things up and running again quickly especially for emergency services.

  2. The question above doesn’t go into how the resident reported the potholes, so in lieu of sending repair requests to a phone voicemail downtown, try the Asheville App > New Request > Report a Street or Sidewalk Concern > Report Pothole. You can even attach a photo with the street location info.

    We’ve tried this and, within a week or so, they’re repaired.

    1. Asheville app states the road is NOT in the City and did not accept the request. Thought that was explained in the post.

  3. If staffing shortages are the problem, hire staff and reduce spending on “nice to have” things like the ridiculous Pack Square proposal. (Yes I know there is grant money but that doesn’t mean wasting it is ok.) Asheville is all over everything BUT providing a safe, functioning city.

    1. Yes, there’s plenty of money here. It’s just poorly distributed. Maybe if the DeWines had a few potholes in need of urgent repair?

      1. FYI: As a rather, uh…healthy…individual, I too have been enamored by those one wheeled vehicles and two-wheeled scooters, however there is a WEIGHT limit on such items, which is most likely a good thing.

  4. “electric personal assistive mobility device” Or EPAMD, for shorthand. HAHAHA. I’d love to see the job description for the people who invent this stuff. Reminds me of the “Self-contained personal learning source,” formerly known as a “book.”

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