A single pothole in California damaged more than two dozen cars in one day during a recent storm.
“It’s not safe for drivers out there. Everyone is getting into accidents,” Nisha Jethi, one of 25 drivers who had their car damaged by the crater on Highway 4 near Pittsburg, in the Bay Area.
The massive crater on the road left her with a flat tire, two busted headlights, and a day of lost wages.
Jethi said she intends to add her name to a list of roughly 1,500 local drivers who file damage claims with the state each year.
Despite the high cost to the state, it can take several months before Caltrans, the agency responsible for highway maintenance, is able to repair a pothole after it has been reported, according to an investigation by NBC Bay Area.
Caltrans estimates that it should take 10 days on average for maintenance crews to fill a pothole identified by drivers through a service request. But when NBC Bay Area filed its own request, Caltrans took more than six weeks to fill the potholes identified on Highway 101 in San Francisco.
Other drivers are experiencing even longer delays.
Caltrans records show that the agency has paid more than a million dollars to Bay Area drivers filing claims since 2009.
“Those are dollars that could be used for new roads and making sure the right kind of infrastructure is in place for safety,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor Federal Glover. “When you are paying out those types of claims, it is a waste.”
Although Caltrans denied NBC Bay Area’s requests to speak with a maintenance manager, the agency reiterated the importance of safety in a statement: “Safety is our number one concern as we repair guardrail, median barriers, and potholes on California’s busy highways.”
Records show that there had been several requests for service along Highway 4 in Pittsburg earlier this year. That was before Jethi’s car was damaged from a pothole, which was made worse by heavy rain the day the 25 cars were taken out.
“It’s their problem. If something is messed up in your house, it’s your responsibility to fix it,” Jethi said.
The pothole that damaged Jethi’s car has since been filled. She says she’ll be sending the bill for her damages to Sacramento.