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Toronto pothole patching crews doing brisk business: The Fixer

There are lies, damn lies and statistics, but the numbers on this winter’s crop of potholes tell a happy and truthful tale.

On Tuesday we reported that the mild winter so far adds up to a smooth ride for drivers, since the conditions required for potholes — lots of precipitation and freeze-and-thaw weather — have been minimal.

In a typical winter, city workers would be deployed to clear snow from spots that sidewalk plows can’t reach, like the point where the sidewalk meets the road at intersections, or around transit stops and shelters.

But a relatively small amount of snow in January has allowed workers to be diverted to pothole patching, and numbers provided by city roads manager Hector Moreno show that they’re keeping up with them

Between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15, about 6,100 potholes were patched on city streets, substantially more than the 4,800 potholes filled during the same period in 2016.

The difference is due to ample snowfall in December, unlike December of 2015, when the weather was more suitable to golfing than skiing. At that point, it looked like predictions of a cold, snowy winter were accurate.

But January has been mild and almost snow-free, which has slowed the formation of potholes and allowed the city to turn 20 to 25 patching crews loose on the ones that have developed, said Moreno.

In the bitterly cold and snowy winter of 2014-15, about 6,600 potholes were filled between Jan. 1 and Jan. 15, when city workers were stretched thin to patch potholes and clear snow at the same time.

To put it in perspective, the city patched a total 254,000 potholes in 2015, at a cost to taxpayers of $ 4.7 million. In the balmy, low-snow winter of 2016, the total dropped to 185,000, which cost $ 4.3 million.

The forecast for the remainder of January is for above-freezing weather, but we still have a fair bit of winter left, which could yet cause a bumper crop of potholes in February and March.

But for now, let’s enjoy the ride and look at the good side of climate change, if there is one: savings on the city’s snow clearing and pothole patching budgets.

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