Filling in the cracks on how potholes are patched in Portland

Keeping our city’s roads smooth is a monumental task, but you can pitch in.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation's pothole repair crew works on a large patch in the street.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation’s policy is that a pothole must be filled within 30 days of reporting.

Photo via PBOT

The Portland Bureau of Transportation said it best — pothole season has arrived in full force. These dastardly divots can do serious damage to your vehicle, so we’re sharing some tools and tips to keep you safe and our roads smooth.

The problem

Potholes are created when water freezes and expands under pavement, weakening its surface. The more cars that drive over the holes, the worse they get.

There are five PBOT crews working as fast as they can to fix the thousands of potholes that appear every year. In 2021 alone, it filled 8,096 potholes to a tune of $1.25 million, courtesy of the Fixing Our Streets program.

The city can only fill the potholes it knows about, so if you’ve been frustrated about one in your neck of the woods, make sure to reach out about it. If you’re a visual person, check out this tracking map of pending and completed repairs.

A map of Portland shows hundreds of green circles, representing fixed potholes, with red squares signifying a pothole waiting to be repaired.

Green means filled, red represents a pothole that still needs repair work.

Map via PBOT

The solution

Before reporting a pothole, there are questions to ask.

  • Is the pothole on a street that is actually managed by the city? Some roads are managed by the state.
  • Does it meet the definition of a pothole? It could instead be delamination (a shallow defect) or a rectangular-edged hole made intentionally that utility contractors are responsible for.

Once you’re sure, you can call (503) 823-1700, email the 24/7 maintenance dispatch, or use PDX Reporter (there is a web version and smartphone app). Be ready to give an address and provide images if possible.

Ultimately, Portland puts the onus on drivers to be aware of road conditions and exercise the necessary caution, based on the rationale that the cause of potholes is inclement weather — not the city’s negligence. If your car is damaged by a pothole, there is a very slim chance you can get reimbursed; find out how that process works (historically, only 10% of claims are paid).