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R.I. businessman makes offer to try to ramp up pothole repairs

by Linda Kleineberg | Mar 12, 2014
Providence Journal coverage of VIBCO's program to donate GR-1600H Pothole Patchers to Rhode Island cities and towns

March 12, 2014 11:20 PM

  /Courtesy of VIBCO Inc.
Cranston Mayor Allan Fung tries out the Vibco roller. Karl Wadensten, owner and president of VIBCO Vibrators — a Rhode Island-based company that makes industrial vibrators — said he will give his machinery to every municipality that wants to repair its potholes.

Tired of seeing cars slumped by the side of the road with tires blown out by automobile-eating potholes, outspoken businessman Karl Wadensten is challenging the state’s city and towns to try his solution.

Owner and president of VIBCO Vibrators — a Rhode Island-based company that makes industrial vibrators for dump trucks, asphalt repair and a multitude of other industries — Wadensten this week said that he will give every municipality in the state a free vibratory roller that he says will dramatically improve the current method of “cold patching” potholes until roads can be repaved.

“We’ve got the solution,” Wadensten said Wednesday. “And I was thinking why can’t Rhode Island be the first state to have pothole-free streets.”

The vibrating rollers, which are pushed like a lawnmower, smooth over the asphalt patching material that makes up a cold patch and compresses it to such a degree that it is just about as good as a permanent fix, said Linda Kleineberg, chief of marketing for VIBCO, located in Richmond.

She said that as of late Wednesday, 14 municipalities had taken Wadensten up on his offer for the vibratory rollers, which sell for about $2,000 each.

A member of the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation (which until recently was known as the Economic Development Corporation), Wadensten is not shy about his desire to see the state work more efficiently and effectively.

“When people visit here and drive roads that are pothole free, it shows that we care about our roads and we care about our people,” he said.

A regular on WPRO talk radio, Wadensten is easy to pick out in a crowd.

He is almost always chomping on an unlit cigar and sometimes shows up in a combat helmet to show that he is serious about his “war on waste.”

He said that VIBCO’s rollers have been used for years by municipalities in other states — including New York City — as a cost-effective way to patch potholes.

“This isn’t just about throwing some of our machines at a problem,” Kleineberg said. “It’s about changing opinions of how that road work is done and the value of the work.”

Cranston and North Providence already have the equipment in hand and the mayors of the two communities say that they are impressed.

North Providence Mayor Charles Lombardi and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung said Wednesday that this year’s rough winter weather was causing the patching in potholes to disintegrate almost as fast as road crews could fill them.

“This is going to save money and increase productivity,” Fung said. “If we’re able to patch these potholes right from the beginning we won’t have to repeatedly fill the same ones.”

“Karl sent a crew here to demonstrate and it [the equipment] did a great job,” Lombardi said. “When I heard that Karl was offering a solution I called him right away … . He’s a driven, committed caring individual and I’m proud that he’s a resident of Rhode Island.”

-- This story was updated at 1:36 p.m. to clarify attribution in the last paragraph.