Got a Hole in the Street? Hope It's a Pothole, Not a Ditch

Definitions could be responsible for a hole remaining in the middle of a South Philly street for weeks instead of days

By Dan Stamm
|  Thursday, Mar 7, 2013  |  Updated 10:43 AM EDT
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In Philly, a Pothole May Not Be a Pothole

NBC10.com - Dan Stamm

This large hole in the middle of the 2400 block of S Sartain Street in South Philly is considered a ditch rather than a pothole and that could be why it has taken months for the city to repair.

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The time it takes to get a hole in your street fixed could range from a matter days to weeks depending on how the city defines your particular cavity.

For most of 2013, neighbors on the 2400 block of South Sartain Street in South Philadelphia say that they've called the city to get the hole in their street fixed.  Despite two months of calls to the city's 3-1-1 helpline and to the Streets Department the hole remains.

Frank Perinelli Jr. says that he himself made five or six phone calls to the city about what appeared to him as a caved-in pothole in front of his Sartain Street home.

“I think it’s become worse,” said Perinelli.

Over the weeks, debris has gathered in the rectangular hole, which appears to be about 4-foot long by 2-foot wide. The hole gobbles up a good part of the drivable width of the narrow street that is barely wide enough to pass.

According to residents, the problem began to appear after some private sewer work was done on the block in late December. License and Inspections records and the Streets Department confirmed the sewer work.

A spokesperson for the Streets Department tells NBC10.com that they have declared the depression a "ditch" over underground lines, not a "pothole." Unlike a regular pothole where the top layer of asphalt wears away, in this case the hole appeared to collapse in. A cave-in of that type is considered a "ditch" and that could be part of the reason why it’s taken so long to fix.

On its website, the department states that the standard is to address a pothole within three days. But, since the hole on Sartain Street is a ditch, rather than a pothole, it is subjected to the department’s winter standard of 45 or more business days to repair (weather permitting).

Perinelli says he was told a crew first went out to examine the collapse on Jan. 24. Should that be the case the Streets Department is well within the 45-business-day deadline.

On Wednesday, there was a single temporary no parking sign that appeared to have fallen off a pole. The sign said “Street Work Scheduled” from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 5 to March 8. But, that doesn't mean fixes are eminent. 

A Streets Department inspector is expected to examine the ditch Wednesday night and if he finds that it's unsafe for travel, crews will head out Thursday to make it safe, the Streets Department said.

But a long-term fix could take a while. The Streets Department says there currently is no asphalt available for permanent restoration since it's winter.

Fixes can't come soon enough for Perinelli. He says that since you can’t see the hole from the corner that cars will get close to it and see it so they drive up on the sidewalk or don’t see it and hit it hard.

“If somebody hits that hole and don’t know it you hear such a loud noise,” said Perinelli.

It is also causing some neighbors to back down the street rather than drive around or drive over the ditch.

When told Wednesday night that the delay in fixing the hole could be due to the city declaring it a ditch, Perinelli's father simply said, "Whatcha gonna do?" The city's policies are the city's policies, he said.

So what should you do if you see a pothole or sinkhole in your neighborhood needs fixed? You should immediately reach out to the Streets Department. You can report a pothole with their Street Defect Request form online, by calling 215-686-5560 or by calling the city’s 311 helpline.

The time for the repair obviously depends on the type of problem but the sooner they know about it, the sooner the problem can bee addressed.

As for the cost of any possible fix. The Streets Department spokesperson says that the city normally attempts to get repair costs covered by the plumbing company that made the original repairs.


UPDATE: Perinelli tells NBC10 that the city did come out Wednesday night and put a temporary fill into the hole.

 


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