The Investigators

Mar 20, 2014 8:52 PM by Tom McNamara and Paul Birmingham

N4T Investigators: Uncovering the true cost of Tucson's potholes

No doubt your car and your nerves are rattled daily by Tucson's pothole-plagued streets. The News 4 Tucson Investigators wanted to find out how much those ruts in the road cost you, as a car owner and taxpayer.

According to a national transportation research group, Tucson ranks seventh in the nation for the annual cost to motorists of driving on rough roads, with drivers paying $723.00 each year in additional operating expenses, just for their own car.

It's craters like these all over the city that make you grit your teeth, and maybe damage your car, and cost you a lot of frustration. Well, the news 4 Tucson Investigators dug deep, to find out how much claims caused by those craters are costing you the taxpayer.

According to the city of Tucson's Risk Management department there were a total of 92 claims for pothole damage in 2013. The total amount paid by Tucson taxpayers for those claims was $31,950.66.

For companies that repair damaged wheels, Tucson's bumpy roads are good for business.

"It's been busy. We stay pretty busy with bent wheels," says Ken Forgue, with Alloy Wheel Repair Specialists.

Drivers whose wheels take a beating end up paying out anywhere from $75 to $100 a pop. His company, repairs about 15 to 25 bent wheels each week.

Generally, Forgue's customers say they a pothole, and it's either bent or cracked their wheel, which can require repair, or complete disposal of the wheel.

Damaged wheels are more than just a cosmetic issue; they can also be a safety concern.

"Bent wheels cause irregular wear, pretty bad vibration. Eventually crack, and eventually no good, and a safety hazard," Forgue says.

Meanwhile, some University of Arizona students are also benefiting from city streets turned mine fields. As part of a class assignment, they've created a Tucson pothole blog, where you can submit photos of some of the worst.

"We've gotten a lot of submissions and emails from people, and everyone seems to be pretty excited that we're trying to take this on. A lot of people have thanked us. It's been really nice. We've gotten a lot of support," says Laura Unkelsbay, one of the blog's creators.

Although, not everyone is enthusiastic about the blog, which, in part, is meant to hold the City of Tucson accountable.

"We've reported two different potholes, including on residential areas, as well as on main streets, and they've done nothing to reply to us about it," adds blog co-creator, Korey Cowan.

Filling a two-foot-wide by two-foot-long and two-inch-deep pothole with hot mix asphalt runs about $150, while filling the same sized pothole with chip and oil mixture is about $75.

Smoother streets and better driving could be in sight. In 2012, Tucson voters passed Proposition 409 It allocates $100M in bonds to fix roads in Tucson. Crews have already been fixing some roadways. Meanwhile on other streets, drivers are left to fend for themselves, doing whatever it takes to avoid becoming the city's next pothole damage claim.

"Be aware of the streets. Be aware of your surroundings. I wouldn't know what you could do. To me, i'd say, the more rubber the better," Forgue says.

To report potholes to the City of Tucson, click this link. If you need information on how to file a claim for damage click here.

If you have something you'd like the News 4 Tucson Investigators to check out, email us at, or call the News 4 Tucson Investigators tip-line at 955-4444.


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