ATTLEBORO — Dozens of drivers could be out hundreds of dollars each as the result of a $1.1 million paving job on some major city streets.
The project, which covers about 3.7 miles over heavily traveled routes mostly in the center of the city, has generated at least 33 damage complaints, mostly blown tires, city officials said Friday.
To date, 19 claim forms have been completed and returned to the city.
The project began on Aug. 6 and was expected to last three weeks, but bad weather has prolonged the work adding to the number of popping tires and the misery of vehicle owners.
Drivers said the damage was caused by the edges of manhole structures which were exposed when approximately three inches of asphalt was stripped from the various roads under repair.
Anthony Thai of Stoughton said both tires on the passenger side of his Hyundai were blown out on Pleasant Street near Auto Zone on Thursday.
He had to have his car towed. The tow was covered by insurance, but he’s out about $180 for the replacement of one of his tires.
He has to wait to repair the second because he’s short of cash, he said.
However, Thai can still drive because he has a full-size spare.
“They’re like landmines,” he said of the manholes. “You can’t avoid them.”
Whether he’s reimbursed is up to the city solicitor, but officials indicated it’s usually a tough sell because drivers are “at their own risk” in construction zones under state law.
However, Mayor Paul Heroux said each case is examined objectively.
“It’s not a subjective process,” the mayor said. “They look to see if the road was properly posted (with construction warnings) and if the city could be at fault. It’s all spelled out in (state) law.”
Public works superintendent Mike Tyler said the law requires postings and once that’s done, drivers must proceed with caution or suffer the consequences.
“When you have clearly marked construction areas in Massachusetts, it’s drive at your own risk,” he said. “And I understand that’s a difficult thing to say to someone who’s out $150 to $200.”
In addition to signs, paint was used to mark the manholes, he said.
Tyler said drivers try to swerve around the manholes instead of taking them “head on” or driving the main body of their vehicle over them.
When vehicles swerve, they are more likely to catch the edge of the manhole and damage the tires, he said.
Thai said the city could have used “manhole safety ramps” which are like collars that fit around the structures and provide a graded edge.
Tyler said he tried to acquire the devices, but was unable.
Companies which supply them were out of stock, but he’ll consider them for future projects, he said.
Heroux said he and Tyler are having “a conversation about that.”
“We’ll have to see if we can afford them,” the mayor said.
Meanwhile, completion of the project is not expected for at least two more weeks, which would bring it from a three-week job to a six-week job.
Most of the roads under repair are part of major routes through the city like Pleasant, West, Forest, Locust and South Main streets.