In L.A., everyone talks about potholes, but no one actually does anything about them. Except for Dave Dworsky, whose Gardena-based company Dr. Pave has a new method to patch up busted roadways with something that looks like a giant ironing board, he says better and more efficiently.
L.A. has more than 6,500 miles of paved roads, the largest municipal street network in the U.S. A good part of that system is cracked and creased, dotted with potholes big and small. The city repairs about 800 miles of road yearly – but few fed up drivers realize that City Hall only fixes streets it grades a "C" or above. The streets the city has let decay to a "failed" rating, it has simply abandoned.
On one such street, Broadway near 102nd St., deep in South L.A., Dworsky and his Dr. Pave team demonstrated their method on two lanes – including a bike lane – that look like something you'd see in bombed-out village in Afghanistan, with potholes the size of large casserole dishes.
"I can fix that," says Dworsky, confidently pacing down Broadway and pointing to one crater. "Give me $500 and I can fix that."
When the city fixes cracks and small potholes on A, B or C-graded streets, it uses crack and slurry seal. It's a quick and relatively cheap method. Only it doesn't last very long – maybe a year, according to Dworsky. Plus the city workers tend to leave bumps and humps.
His system is designed to last much longer – five years – and leaves the patched up pavement flush with the old street, all but indistinguishable, except for the color. It takes a two-man crew about 45 minutes or so to patch one 30-square-foot area.
Best of all, it can fix many of the obliterated patches of road city officials have all but written off.
Here's how it works:
First, Dr. Pave's patented heating device heats the jacked up section of pavement. It looks like a giant, 30-square-foot ironing board. It also comes in a 50-square-foot size.
Most cities use propane heat. Dr. Pave uses an electrical infrared heater that essentially heats the asphalt into mush.
Not only that, it extracts the moisture trapped in the cracks, which is what causes them to spread. Above, the moisture is turned into steam.
The heating device is removed...
... and a worker takes what appears to be a normal, household rake, and tears apart the now-mushy asphalt.
Then they throw in some stuff that helps rejuvenate the street.
And these strips of tape help too, apparently.
Then they pour recycled asphalt on – this could come from anywhere. It could come from a nearby pothole.
Then this driverless thing comes along...
... which is remote-controlled. It tamps down the pavement.
Then this roller thing presses it in. The key here is to make the new pavement flush with the old pavement, to prevent any water from seeping in.
And voila! A chunk of smooth street, ready to be driven on in 15 minutes.
"We guarantee that repair for five years," say Dworsky. "There's where your cost savings are – in its permanency."
More than 20 cities in Southern California have already availed themselves of Dworsky's services. His recent demo in South L.A. was partly for publicity and partly so city engineers could test out Dr. Pave's results, to see if its claims are real.
To be sure, Dr. Pave isn't the first company to come along promising a cure-all to America's infrastructure woes. The Pothole Killer is a truck with a giant hose attached to the front of it, and the operator doesn't even have to leave his seat. City Controller Ron Galperin even mentioned it in an L.A. Times op-ed.
According to Dennis Gleason, a policy aide to City Councilman Joe Buscaino, the city is constantly hearing from "companies that claim they have the latest and greatest product."
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"The concept with Dr. Pave, it seems to make sense," says Gleason. "There may be more up-front labor costs. But if each patch lasts a lot longer, it may even out."
The issue, then, is who would do the work. If Dworsky and his team did the labor, that would not sit well at all with the L.A. public employee unions.
"That is something I’m sure the unions would have a problem with," says Gleason.
But, he adds, "The roads are so bad, we’re looking at all options. If it saves the city money, it’s something we would consider."