A mud-covered car drives over a pothole, and mud flies up from to hit the car's back bumper.
A car drives over a pothole on Ohio Street, Feb. 11, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

Jaime Dunton was driving toward downtown Bangor on Ohio Street after picking up her son from daycare Friday afternoon when she felt two of her tires blow. 

“I thought it was a puddle,” Dunton said. But the puddle was hiding some nasty potholes.

“They are particularly bad this year,” she said. “That is not fiction. That is a fact.”

For Dunton, that meant she had to spend much of Friday afternoon sitting in her car on the side of the road, waiting for a tow truck and a ride.

Dunton is far from the only person around Bangor to have tires claimed by so-called “tire-eaters.” 

It’s not just you — the potholes around Bangor are here earlier this year, and they’re particularly bad, according to the city. And winter is far from over.

Generally, potholes aren’t a problem until the springtime in March. But the last few weeks of warm and wet weather have led to 232 reports of potholes across the city, according to Aaron Huotari, Bangor’s director of public works. During the same period last year — approximately the first couple weeks of February — the city received only 28 pothole reports. 

Jaimie Dunton’s car sits on the side of Ohio Street waiting for a tow truck after a pothole popped two of her tires, Feb. 11, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

“It is early, and they are bad,” Huotari said. “Talking with people that have been here for 15 to 20 years, they said this is among some of the worst that we’ve seen.” 

The 232 reports that came in from across the city could be duplicates, but Huotari’s public works team has already used 80,000 pounds of polymer asphalt patch over the last two weeks, he said. 

On Thursday night, Jess Boone was driving along Springer Drive when she attempted to avoid one pothole only to drive directly into another, popping one of her tires, she said. 

As she pulled off to the side of the road to assess the damage, the car behind her also blew a tire, she said. By the time her boyfriend arrived to help her put her spare on, six cars in total were off the road with flat tires, she said. 

“They’ve been terrible throughout Bangor this year. I feel like they’re not avoidable,” Boone said. “If you try to avoid them you could get into an accident. That’s how bad it is.”

Lucky drivers will only have to replace the tire, not the whole wheel. But in Boone’s case, the pothole was so deep that it bent a portion of her rim, she said. 

“I have no idea how much it is going to cost. I have a 2021, brand-new car with brand-new tires — really expensive tires on there, so I have no clue how much it will cost,” Boone said. 

There is a cost incurred every time a pothole needs to be filled, Huotari said. 

The city uses a special kind of patch that is supposed to be higher-quality than a cheaper asphalt patch, he said. In addition to the increased cost for material, a proliferation of potholes on a road generally is an indication that the road will need to be replaced, Huotari said. 

Jaimie Dunton’s car sits on the side of Ohio Street waiting for a tow truck after a pothole popped two of her tires, Feb. 11, 2022. Credit: Sawyer Loftus / BDN

“If there are problems with the material underneath the road, really the only fix is to dig the whole road up and put down a new underlayer,” he said. 

The potholes are forming because of the freezing and thawing the Bangor area is going through, Huotari said. When water gets under the pavement and freezes, it expands. As the weather warms, ice and snowmelt get into the roads, causing them to break down, he said. 

A patch for one pothole may not even be the best fix. Sometimes the holes will need to be patched more than once, Huotari said. 

Huotari estimates that the budget for public works will be stretched because of the uptick in potholes, but said his team will respond to the holes as fast as they can. 

Huotari isn’t hopeful that the potholes will go away soon.

“I think this is going to be a continuing problem, unfortunately,” he said. 

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...