City of Omaha considering purchase of pothole-patching injector trucks

The City of Lincoln has had them for several years -- now, Omaha is considering the purchase of pothole injectors.
Published: Mar. 16, 2023 at 9:44 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - They’ve been in use in the City of Lincoln for several years, and now the City of Omaha is considering purchasing pothole-patching trucks.

The trucks can fill up to 150 potholes per day, according to Lincoln’s Transportation and Utilities department.

“It’s been a good investment for us because they’re installing more robust, longer-lasting pothole patches that are holding up much better in the long term,” says Tim Byrne with LTU.

The machine works like this: first, compressed air cleans debris out of the pothole.

“Then, with a couple of buttons, the operator will then begin to apply a hot emulsion onto the hole which is a glue that will hold it together,” Byrne explains.

The hole is then filled with a rock that is also coated in the hot emulsion, binding it together.

Byrne says the machines have been more than worth it. Since they were purchased in 2016, the number of pothole complaints has declined in Lincoln each year.

Byrne also attributes the decline in pothole complaints to an increase in preventative maintenance like crack sealing, as well as to an investment in the city’s street rehabilitation Lincoln on the Move initiative, which resurfaces streets that are in dire need of more long-term repair.

“They are holding up very well for us compared to traditional methods when we use a cold mix, put that into the hole, and tamp it down in, it doesn’t have that hot emulsion that’s sealing it up as well, so they are holding up better than our other patches,” Byrne adds.

Now, the City of Omaha says it may be time to get a pothole patch truck, too.

“We’re actually actively considering the machines now, we’ve got conversations that are ongoing with a couple of manufacturers,” says Austin Rowser, an engineer with Omaha Public Works. “We’re always looking at ways to do better.”

Rowser says the machines are about as efficient as their ground crews when it comes to potholes filled per day. He says the machine’s patches are also comparable to the longer-lasting hot patches the city uses.

But the truck only requires one person, compared to the several-man crew it takes to manually fill potholes now. It’s also safer, both Byrne and Rowser say.

“For the driver for the employee, there are some real safety benefits to having them enclosed in a cab where they’re not out in the streets, in the elements, they’re not exposed to live traffic,” Rowser says.

Rowser says there may be more pros to the trucks than cons, but there’s one reason why the city hasn’t yet purchased them.

“They’re a single-use machine,” Rowser says. “You know, we don’t typically like to have single-use machines in our maintenance crews, because obviously, we patch potholes but we also plow snow, so we look for machines that can help us in both operations, whether its some kind of pavement repair and snowplowing.”

Rowser says since they’re single-use, the machines will sit in the maintenance storage units for many months, taking up space until they’re needed in the winter months.

However, they could soon be part of Omaha’s fleet.

The pothole patching trucks cost around $225,000.