Street Cut Information
A street cut is an intentional cut into the surface of a roadway as opposed to what is commonly known as a pothole. A pothole on the other hand is a general degradation of the roadway and has no particular straight lines or properties as to its size, shape or area.
Street cuts are a necessary evil in our city as well as most cities due mainly to the fact that most utilities are put either beneath the roadway or in the right-of-way. A right-of-way is an adjacent area to the roadway that is measured from the centerline of the road outwards and extends pass the edge of the road into the grassy areas. These right-of-ways vary in width and may include large portions of the grassy areas adjacent to the roads and are also dependent on the type of roads they include. State roads generally have wider right-of-ways than rural roads or county roads.
The purpose of a street cut is either to repair a malfunctioning utility or to make additions to existing utilities. In Bowling Green the majority of street cuts are done by ATMOS Energy (Gas) or BGMU (Water, Sewer and Electric) or on their behalf. Private companies are not allowed to connect to these utilities without the prior consent of their respective owners. Most complaints about street cuts are pertaining to their repairs or lack there of.
Street cut final repairs are not made immediately after the construction phase for several reasons that may not always be obvious to the causal observer. Weather is one of the most mitigating factors in the repair process for some of the most obvious reasons, yet weather also plays into the repairs on a more subtle level as well. The City follows State guidelines as to the replacement of asphalt that requires that asphalt not be applied in ambient temperatures below 40 Degrees Fahrenheit. Asphalt will not consistently adhere to the surrounding pavement and thus is less likely to remain as a permanent repair. Furthermore most asphalt plants shutdown during these winter months and only open occasionally during continued warm stretches and thus makes final repairs, material dependent. Some repairs in winter are completed with concrete, but concrete is not malleable and thus tends to leave gaps between the asphalt and the concrete that further perpetuates asphalt degradation. Concrete repairs are usually made in the winter months in high traffic areas where final repairs are not expected soon.
The type of utility also makes a difference in the repair timetable that is not readily known, for instance gas leak repairs. Gas leaks are determined by gas leak detectors that sniff for gas leaks on the surface of the roadway and grassy areas. Therefore the gas had to leak over extended periods of time in order to penetrate the various consistencies of soil, gravel, asphalt, etc. When a gas leak is detected and repaired the contractor backfills the cut with crushed stone in order to fill the gap and this is usually done to the surface of the roadway. Final repairs are not made at that time because the gas leak is to be further tested to make sure all the leaks were found and repaired properly. Because of the proximity of the gas permeable materials around the leak, its not feasible to test the repairs at that time. The cut is left open with gravel in order to let the gas leach out of the surrounding areas and to permit further testing of the area for leaks. Once the gas officials are satisfied the leak is repaired and only then, is the street cuts final repairs made.
Finally, compaction is also a key player in the final repair process of street cuts. Anytime you disturb soil, gravel or any other materials that have had time to settle or compact, you open the possibility of further settling in the area and the same goes true for street cuts. After the repairs gravel is replaced in what is called 6” lifts that are compacted individually by a tamper. And even these tamped lifts still have the potential to settle. To help understand the problem, think of a potato chip bag, when they leave the factory they are filled close to the top with the product, but settling occurs during transportation and shipping that causes the bag to be only half full or so when you open it, the same goes true for street cuts. If you were able to make the repairs immediately, there still exists the potential for settling caused by the daily relentless weight of vehicles and the vibrations caused by traffic. One of the best methods to avoid this problem is to let traffic compact the loose stone thus greatly diminishing the chances for further compaction after final repairs are made.
If you see a street cut that is need of repairs, simply call the Public Works Inspector at (270) 393-3677 and inform him of the area, He will immediately call the proper utility and make sure the repairs are completed in a timely manner. I hope this sheds some light on the issues of street cuts and utility replacements and for further information please feel free to call.
Joseph R. Webb
Public Works Inspector
Mon.-Fri. 7:00am to 4:00pm C.S.T.