A work crew from the Texas Department of Transportation Monday evening patched the largest of the potholes in front of the bridge over Blue Creek on the northbound road of U.S. 87/287 south of Dumas, offering some relief to drivers who have been sustaining vehicle damage at what has been the worst spot of a road that is deteriorating rapidly in the winter weather. The patch is temporary. By Wednesday, the new asphalt was showing signs of sinking, and the rest of the road around it, stripped of a layer of asphalt in preparation for an overlay project that has not been completed, is developing new potholes and cracks.
Even with the patch, evidence of how many vehicles have sustained damage at the sight was readily apparent on Wednesday. Hub caps and wheel parts littered the bridge, mixed in with chunks of ice knocked off trucks as they struck the rough area in front of the bridge.
"We have had a few people ruin wheels and tires out there," said Mike Shields of Coffee Tire and Brake. "In one day we had two." The cost to motorists for repairs depends on the vehicle. "We had one guy, he had a Cadillac Escalade, and that tire and rim ended up costing him in the neighborhood of $900." Other vehicles have had even more serious encounters with the area. "We had a semi-truck … hit that spot, and he hit another truck … and the guard rail went down the left side of the truck. He had to have four tires and wheels and damage to the truck and trailer. That was back in December."
Catherine, I Swear Carr, one of the candidates for Mac Thornberry's seat in Congress, said she sustained $200 worth of damage to a tire and had to be towed back to Amarillo after having hit the pothole on a trip to Dumas this week. "It almost flipped my car," she said.
For motorists with vehicle damage, filing a claim with their insurance company is about the only realistic option for offsetting the cost of repairs. According to TxDOT, "The Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code §101.021 does not allow TxDOT to expend state funds for damage to property (e.g. vehicles) that is sustained as a result of highway conditions. If desired, you should contact your insurance company, and report the incident of property damage to them. If you believe you have a claim other than damage to property as a result of highway conditions that should be considered for potential payment under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, we must receive your claim in writing. Oral claims are not accepted and there is no formal claim form."
Though the area of the bridge over Blue Creek is the worst, the condition of U.S. 87/287 from Dumas to the Potter county line has been rough and uneven for a considerable amount of time. As reported in the February 5-6 edition of the News-Press, the project to repair and overlay the highway came to a halt when the original contractor, Highway Contractors, Inc., defaulted. TxDOT and the surety company are in the process of figuring out a way forward. In the meantime, TxDOT spokesperson Sonja Gross says TxDOT will patch potholes as soon as they can after becoming aware of them, but the road will continue to be rough until the overlay project can be completed. Motorists should be aware that winter is the season for potholes and that they can emerge and expand rapidly. Motorists should exercise caution.