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Heavy rains wreak havoc on Plant City roads

Torrential rains have played havoc with Plant City roads, but the worst of the damage may occur when the water table recedes.

Engineers are looking to make major repairs on Wedgewood Drive and Wedgewood Court in the city's Walden Lake community. Other upgrades are needed on Maki Road, Vermont Street, Wood Court and Silvermoon Drive. That doesn't count dozens of other streets plagued by potholes.

The culprit is water and in most cases it's been bubbling under the road surface for months, even years, weakening the layer of compacted limestone that supports the asphalt surface and allowing the road to crack.

Higher-than-average rainfall has made matters worse. The city endured 50 inches of rain this spring and summer, about 12 inches more than usual. City engineer Brett Gocka estimates calls for pothole repairs are up 25 percent compared to a year ago.

Even more bad news might be brewing as the rainy season departs and city streets dry out and start to contract.

"We'll begin to see the full extent in a couple months," city manager Greg Horwedel said.

For two years, Wedgewood residents have noticed cracking and deterioration of the asphalt surface. They attributed the problem to a broken pipe, but instead it seems topography and drainage problems are more to blame, said Gocka, who evaluated a recent consultant's report that examined the problem.

Gocka and city commissioners haven't decided how to tackle the Wedgewood issue.

One alternative is to build a network of drains and pipes beneath the road, then replace the limestone subsurface with a rigid concrete-asphalt bed. Making those repairs, which include new pavement and curbs, could take two months and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Ray Page, president of the Wedgewood Homeowners Association, said the road started cracking three years ago. The street is dotted with places where potholes were filled in. At some larger cracks, water can be seen bubbling up through the asphalt.

"This is a nice neighborhood and people are concerned about their homes and their properties, and I don't blame them," said Page, 70, who retired to Wedgewood Drive from New Jersey 13 years ago.

Horwedel said city commissioners will meet in a couple weeks to prioritize streets that need minor repairs. Then, in about a month, officials will set out to prioritize roads that need major reconstruction, such as Wedgewood Drive.

Officials trying to schedule the work will consider how much use the roads get, the extent of damage and the cost of the repairs. Gocka hasn't yet figured out the costs to repair Wedgewood Drive and Wedgewood Court. He'll know in a couple weeks. The streets provide access to 26 homes in Walden Lake.

"The streets in Wedgewood always seem to be wet, and with the summer we're having, it hasn't helped the situation," said Tom Daramus, general manager at Walden Lake. "Hopefully, the city can come in here and fix the problem."

Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampabay.com or (813) 661-2454.

Heavy rains wreak havoc on Plant City roads 09/27/12 [Last modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 4:30am]
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