Northeast Ohio cities fight potholes, but rarely reimburse drivers for damage

CLEVELAND - They're hard to miss, easy to hit and make for bumpy rides on Northeast Ohio's roads. Potholes are a pervasive problem, so NewsChannel5 Investigators researched how area cities are fighting to fix the streets.

NewsChannel5 Investigators gathered information about how many crews the six largest cities in our area  devote to patching potholes each day. 

Here's what we found:

* Akron:  5 crews, 4 workers per crew
* Canton:  3 to 5 crews, 3 workers per crew
* Cleveland:  6 to 7 crews; 5 to 6 workers per crew
* Lorain:  1 crew; 3 to 4 workers per crew
* Parma:  3 to 5 crews; 4 to 5 workers per crew
* Toledo:  6 to 18 crews: 3 to 4 workers per crew

"We're not sitting back just watching the potholes," said Michael Cox, Cleveland Director of Public Works. Cox said potholes pop up faster than city workers can fix them.

"We're trying to keep up with these potholes. Are we behind a little bit behind? Yes, we are," he said. Cleveland put permanent patches on 1,751 potholes in 2012.

Cox blames the weather for the city's massive number of potholes.

"It's an act of nature when you get those potholes. It's just something that happens," he said.

NewsChannel5's Chief Meteorologist Mark Johnson agreed.

"The weather is responsible for our potholes," he said. "I think we are the capital of potholes here in northern Ohio because we have lake effect snow, we have the moderation from the lake, we have more freeze-thaw cycles than Alaska does."

Northeast Ohio cities review and can compensate drivers for pothole damage claims, but NewsChannel5 Investigators found drivers are rarely reimbursed.

Cities only pay when they find they were negligent. In other words, the city was aware a pothole existed and failed to fix it. Drivers who make claims must also be able to prove a pothole is responsible for the damage to their vehicle.

Here's how much area cities paid out in pothole damage claims in 2012:

* Akron:  $0
* Canton:  $0
* Cleveland:  approved 50 out of 176 claims, $16,253.91 paid to drivers
* Lorain:  approved 2 claims, paid $1000 to drivers
* Parma:  approved 18 out of 67 claims, $3,314 paid to drivers
* Youngstown: approved 2 claims; $800 paid to drivers

Potholes can seriously damage cars. Cleveland resident Jim Dougherty ran his truck into an 18-inch pothole last month on Briar. Road. He said the pothole damaged his truck's brake line, front shock, and front CV joint.

"It was a shock. Jumped me around the truck pretty good," said Dougherty about the hitting the pothole.

Dougherty could apply for reimbursement from the city for the cost of the damages, but he said he'd rather see the money go towards fixing Cleveland's streets.

"Going to work, it's a minefield You're constantly swerving across the road," he said.

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We want to see your pictures of the worst potholes in northeast Ohio. Viewer photos sent in by others and submit your own here: http://on.wews.com/YcYbvt

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