Street crews earn their keep on streets of La Jolla

Brown, Santos and crew leader Mario Escobar spread the asphalt.
Brown, Santos and crew leader Mario Escobar spread the asphalt.


By Kathy Day

Staff Writer

Standing in the middle of a major street with a city crew filling potholes gives one new perspective on their job.

There’s the dirt, the 350-degree asphalt, the danger of standing in the middle of a street — and then there are the disrespectful drivers.

As a team began working on North Torrey Pines Road Thursday morning, under the watchful eye of City Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, her aide Erin Demorest and two key city employees, most cars slowed down. But one driver, seemingly caught off guard by flashing lights on a truck several hundred feet away, the lights on a second truck and a long line or orange cones, floored his accelerator.

As the car blew by the somewhat stunned group smoke pouring from its exhaust, Public Works Director Joe Castillo said that speeding cars and disrespectful drivers go with their jobs.

He described one time someone spit on him. Then there was the time he was working on a drainage problem near the Torrey Pines Municipal Golf Course. Standing near the puddle that reached midway into the street, he said, a driver steered his car into the water and splashed the entire crew.

With a wry smile, he added, a little later a police officer came by and said he had witnessed the incident, chased the car down and “he had to pay a big fine. “

As Castillo and Hasan Yousef surveyed the row of small potholes that the crew was preparing to fill — one of a number of spots being repaired today and Friday as part of a pothole event organized by Lightner — they spotted several other problem areas.

Hassan immediately wrote himself notes about a bulging curb that indicated a tree-root problem that would likely push into the street and the other a pothole around a manhole cover. On the latter, they had the crew make a temporary fix and planned to call in the water department for a more permanent repair.

Hassan said the push in La Jolla is a way to get a handle on a long list of complaints in a short amount of time. Normally, they aim for a seven-day turnaround.

“If it’s a hazard that’s popping tires or bending rims, we’ll dispatch by radio and fix it immediately,” he added.

This past year, the city spent more money than ever on potholes, even issuing bonds to address the problem. The amount tops $54 million, and if the city were to repair all the streets that need work today, he added, it would cost $377 million.

After watching the crew spray a tacky emulsifier on the street, cover it with asphalt, roll and compact the new surface, and sprinkle it with sand, Lightner reiterated her call for people to report potholes when they see them.

“They’ll get fixed sooner and people will get the gratification of seeing them fixed,” she said, adding that if needed she’ll schedule another “pothole event.”

“This was a grand slam!”



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