Tulsa's Pothole Problem And What's Being Done To Fix It

Tuesday, September 1st 2015, 10:31 am
By: Dave Davis

A recent study from a national research group shows Tulsa roads are some of the worst in America, with almost half of them in poor condition.  

That same report claims those rough roads are costing Tulsa drivers over $900 a year in vehicle repair and maintenance.  

TRIP road report

I took a looked closer at why the roads are like that and what's being done to fix them.

Tulsans are very familiar with potholes, they're nothing new to News On 6 viewers.  Michael Hartman, who has lived in Tulsa for ten years and is also a manager at the local Firestone store, says they're very common.  

"The running joke is that there's only one in Tulsa, it's just the size of the city, it varies in depth," said Michael Hartman.

Hartman says he hit two recently. One almost took him off his motorcycle and another damaged his wife's car.  He sees pothole damage on other people's cars at the shop everyday.

Hartman says the most common problems caused by potholes are pinched tires, dented wheels and bad steering suspension.  Damages can range from $150 for a new tire to $1,500 for a new steering suspension system.  

I talked to the city of Tulsa Street Maintenance Manager Tim McCorkell, who says potholes are his crews' number one priority.  I asked him what he thinks when someone complains about how bad Tulsa streets are. 

"Well the first thing I think about is all the construction that's being done right now to take care of it," said Tim McCorkell.  

We checked on projects on the Improve Our Tulsa/ Fix Our Streets Projects Map online.  It shows 33 street and bridge projects underway now, or scheduled in the next month or two with eight more projects starting in the fall.  Another one has a January start date and five are still being designed or don't have a start date.  

When it comes to individual potholes, McCorkell says it's critical that Tulsans report exact locations of especially large and damaging potholes. You can do that through the city's Customer Care Center online or by calling 918-596-2100.

We requested those records from the city, and this is what we found.  From June 30, 2013 to June 30, 2015, the center got 4,448 complaints by phone and online.  That's an average of 6.08 per day.

City of Tulsa Customer Care Center records

I looked closer at 1,000 of those complaints, and found the city's average response time - from the day the ticket was opened, until it was closed was 5.39 days.  McCorkell told me the department's goal for large and damaging potholes is to fix them within 24 hours.  

"I think they're actually fighting a losing battle, especially with what happened with the inundation of the rain in May.  That made the things they had repaired worse,  and it made things that weren't bad even worse," said Michael Hartman.  

McCorkell says in the last 15 years, the number of labor or trade employees in the streets department has gone down by a third.  He says the department needs more money and more people to catch up and to do more permanent repairs.

"Every year I ask for more employees, but if the tax dollars aren't there and the funding isn't there, then we don't get our requests met," said Tim McCorkell.  

Whether you're optimistic, or remember these days all too well the City of Tulsa says they're doing their best with the resources they have.
If your car has damage from a pothole on a Tulsa street, you can find a tort claim on their website