When an out-of-towner gets into Ryan Isley’s Ford Escape — which he uses as a Lyft and Uber vehicle in and around Akron — he gives them a pothole warning.
“I tell them, ‘Just so you know, this is going to be a bumpy ride’,” Isley said Thursday. “I literally explain to them what the roads look like where I’m going.”
Many of the potholes are old, unwanted acquaintances from years past, he said. Akron fixed them last year only to have them reopen in January after sending plows to clear more than a foot of snow, said Isley, who lives in North Hill.
The winter has also opened new potholes and rough pavement in the city’s numerous construction zones and residential streets, he said.
“Most people, especially if they live in Akron, understand,” Isley said. “They just smile and say they know there’s nothing I can do about it.”
Isley, like many Akronites, has reported the most egregious potholes to the city’s 311 action line.
And this week — after Mayor Dan Horrigan used part of his State of the City address to say he made good on a promise to boost funding for pothole repair by 174 percent — Isley went online and asked when city workers would properly fix the potholes so they don’t reopen every winter.
Potholes are as much a part of Northeast Ohio winters as lake-effect snow.
Yet people seem to be having a particularly rough time in Akron this year, venting on social media and posting pictures of potholes, some as big as bicycles.
Jose Terrones said he was driving down Merriman Road this year when he felt it.
“You couldn’t tell it was pothole,” he said. “Last second I saw it, I saw brick under the concrete.”
The pothole damaged one of Terrones’s tires. He said it was the third tire he had to replace within a year.
“That tire got replaced March last year. For the same reason,” Terrones said. “I’ve only had it for a year. Brand new and the pothole took it. Now I’ve spent $400 on tires and alignments.”
Some people file claims with the city, arguing the government should pick up the tab for damage to their vehicles caused by potholes.
But few win.
The city doesn’t track pothole claims as a category. It instead lumps them into an umbrella category called “Highway Maintenance,” which also includes claims of damage from snowplows or street cleaners, city spokeswoman Ellen Lander Nischt said.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, Nischt said, the city determines it is not liable for pothole damage.
To be liable, she said the city would have to know about a specific pothole and fail to fix it in a reasonable time.
“Reasonable time,” she said is murky and could shift depending on weather and other issues.
“Most damage from potholes occurs relatively soon after a pothole forms or after it rapidly grows,” she said. “So usually we either didn’t know about a specific pothole, or were in the process of responding to it when an incident occurs.”
Nischt said it’s important for people to understand how the claim system works.
“The only thing more frustrating than dealing with damage from a pothole is to spend additional time pursuing a claim when the city will ultimately be found not to be liable,” she said. “Trust me, as residents, drivers and city workers, we share the public’s hatred for potholes — I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say they’re public enemy No. 1.”
Isley said he doesn’t think his Ford has ever been damaged by potholes, in part because he knows where they are and steers around them or intentionally takes alternative routes with smoother pavement.
He said, for example, there’s only one choice when making the short trip between downtown Akron and Highland Square — Market Street.
West Exchange Street — the other major road connecting downtown to Akron’s bohemian neighborhood — is a mess, particularly close to downtown construction, he said.
“On Exchange, it feels like the incline of a roller coaster,” he said. “It’s a herky-jerky ride.”
Amanda Garrett can be reached at 330-996-3725 or firstname.lastname@example.org