The wrecker driver pulling the smashed minivan was hustling to get the damaged load to its destination last week when his rig hit something at the intersection of Hamilton Street and Sharp Avenue that sent sparks shooting.
It was a pothole – a big one.
The city of Spokane wants to hear about the worst of them, streets department spokeswoman Ann Deasy said.
“If it’s going to blow out your tire, the goal is to fix it within 24 hours,” Deasy said. “But if it’s a dinky little ridge, it’s not going to get fixed right now.”
And when Deasy says fixed, she doesn’t really mean “fixed.” The only option Lilac City street crews have is what’s called a cold patch – kind of like a Band-Aid placed over the hole until warmer temperatures will allow real asphalt to set up.
A series of snowstorms, melting temperatures and freezing nights have compounded Spokane’s well-known pothole problem, she said. To combat the suspension-jarring holes, the city wants residents to report problems on the Pothole Repair Hotline, (509) 625-7733.
But just a complaint won’t be enough.
“If a resident sees a pothole, they need to give as specific a location as possible where it is,” Deasy said. “They should include where it is, cross streets and which lane of travel. Crews don’t have time to go driving around looking for it.”
Only the worst, which the city calls “level three,” will receive attention, Deasy said. Those are potholes big enough to cause damage, such as blowing a tire, she said.
Crews fixed a pothole on 25th Avenue and Southeast Boulevard on Friday. It had 13 hubcaps lying nearby.
Residents who hit a “level three” that causes damage to their vehicles do have recourse.
Residents can file a claim with the city to recoup the cost of broken axles or blown tires. However, residents should not expect resolution to be easy.
The city hasn’t paid a dime to motorists for the past three years or for the current pothole season, Deasy said.
Motorists who presumably have the broken axle or blown tire must request a claim form from the city’s Risk Management Department.
Drivers must document exactly where the pothole was and when it was hit and include a receipt for the repairs.
The legal catch: “For city to be liable, the pothole must first be reported. And secondly, we would have to know about it and not do anything,” Deasy said.
So unless someone else had reported the pothole at least 24 hours in advance of your car crunching into it, the city is off the hook.
“For instance, we had a guy who called who tried to get a claim,” Deasy said. “He said, ‘I’ve driven by this pothole for the past three days.’ ”
Asked if he had reported it, the man said he assumed the city would have taken care of it.
“How would (street crews) take care of it if they didn’t know about it?” Deasy asked. “We can’t know about every pothole in the city.”
By land or by sea
Starting Jan. 22, the state of Washington will start taking appointments for residents to obtain the new enhanced driver’s license that will allow them to cross Mexican or Canadian borders without a passport.
The idea started in Washington with officials seeking ways to preserve trade and travel to British Columbia. Now 26 states, including Idaho, are now looking to copy it.
The enhanced license was created to address federal transportation regulations that will require residents to present a passport or passport equivalent to get back into the United States mainly from Mexico or Canada, said Brad Benfield, spokesman for Washington’s Department of Licensing.
“If you travel by air to other countries, you will still need a passport,” Benfield said. “But for a lot of people who go to Canada to ski, they can go up and come back (with the enhanced driver’s license) and not have to worry about the passport.” The new license will cost $15 more than the standard $25 for a regular license, he said. No testing is required unless the old license is expiring, Benfield said.
However, residents must call to make an appointment to show the necessary documents.
“If you already have a passport, you could use that,” Benfield said. “Otherwise, you would need a birth certificate or certificate of naturalization. We have specially trained staff who will interview people as part of the process.”
Gigi Zenk, a Department of Licensing spokeswoman, said the enhanced license program is not related to a controversy brewing between 17 states and the federal government over the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s complicated REAL ID program.
By 2014, anyone seeking to board an airplane or enter a federal building would have to present a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, with the notable exception of those more than 50 years old, Homeland Security officials said.
So far, 17 states, including Washington and Idaho, have passed legislation or resolutions objecting to the REAL ID Act’s provisions, many due to concerns it will cost them too much to comply. Zenk said the difference between the programs is that the enhanced driver’s license is a voluntary program while the REAL ID will eventually become mandatory.