Potholes, Road Conditions, Roadkill: Who do you call?

Potholes, Road Conditions, Roadkill: Who do you call?

Motorists across Virginia have the opportunity to interact with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) about road problems, hazards and more using an innovative online tool that links drivers directly with department officials.

Motorists in Virginia spent a combined $1.344 billion — an average of $254 per year per motorist — on vehicle maintenance due to poor road conditions, like potholes and drainage problems, in 2013 according to a study shared by the U.S. Department of Transportation, but drivers do have an option to help improve this statistic.

An online tool, which can be accessed on the department’s official site, allows drivers to contact VDOT directly to report adverse road conditions, make suggestions and ask questions involving roads and vehicles.

Motorists also have the option of calling the department directly to speak with a representative.

“People will call in if a tree is down (or they) see a pothole,” Jennifer McCord, the communications manager for VDOT, said.

Most often, she said, the department receives calls about dead animals that need to be removed from roads.

Any question or problem with a road can be reported on the site or via phone, so long that it is within the department’s jurisdiction, McCord said. The department does not maintain roads in cities, towns and private communities, like neighborhood roads that are covered by homeowners’ associations.

If a driver notices a problem with a road, like a broken sign or hazard on the roadway, they can visit the online tool and answer a series of questions to help the department identify and solve the problem.

“When you go online, there are some options to choose from,” McCord said. The most popular problems appear in a series of drop down menus, but those who are reporting can also describe a unique situation as needed.

McCord said this set-up is more user-friendly than past systems. “It’s organized and it provides one central location.”

After identifying the problem, motorists are asked to provide the location where they noticed the issue. McCord said it can be difficult for those reporting to describe their location at times, and as a result, one of the biggest challenges of field crews is simply locating the problems that are reported.

To remedy this, the online tool allows individuals to input a variety of information to help the crews in the field locate and resolve issues, including uploading photos, marking the spot of the problem on a map and providing additional details other than what is already asked by the online questionnaire.

McCord said motorists’ reports result in what is essentially a work order that gets submitted to  one of 18 field offices. The driver who submits the report has the option to receive a work order number so they can come back and track it.

Additionally, if the motorist’s request cannot be completed, the person can be notified if they choose by indicating this on the online tool. A representative would then follow up directly with the motorist who reported the problem, McCord said.

The department also logs who calls and when, so they can can see if the same person has called in multiple times, and know to prioritize that problem, according to McCord.

The department received a total of 3,167 reports about northern Virginia, including Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington counties, in June, but McCord said that number can fluctuate month to month.

“In the winter, that number goes very high, for people reporting snow and potholes,” she said.

Motorists have been able to report road problems by phone for almost a decade and the online system was most recently updated in the last two or three years, McCord said.

“We certainly welcome folks to report any issue that they see,” McCord said, “and each one does get looked at.”