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VIDEO: Town officials: VIBCO roller revolutionizing attack on potholes

by Linda Kleineberg | Mar 18, 2014
News coverage from the Valley Breeze on VIBCO's donation of a GR-1600H Pothole Patcher to the City of North Providence.
Under the watchful eye of Mayor Charlie Lombardi, center, and Public Works Director Glenn Corrente, right, DPW worker Pete Boranian demonstrates the vibrating action of a pothole patcher vibratory roller last Friday. Workers used the new machine to repair potholes on Rosner Avenue. (Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

By ETHAN SHOREY, Valley Breeze Staff Writer

NORTH PROVIDENCE - The annual battle against potholes will never be the same, say town officials, after the town landed a "pothole patcher vibratory roller" from the Rhode Island-based vibrator company VIBCO.

The new machine, which went into use for the first time last week, is compressing asphalt in a way that was impossible to achieve with hand tools, said Mayor Charles Lombardi. It will make pothole patches last much longer while extending the life of local roads, he said.

The work of filling and smoothing potholes may now take longer per hole, said Public Works Director Glenn Corrente, but he expects the patches will now last two or three years.

"You might spend 15 or 20 minutes longer on the hole, but you're not coming back to fill it two or three times in the season," he said.

Lombardi said he knew right away what he would do when he heard WPRO radio host Dan Yorke last week talking about VIBCO President Karl Wadensten's offer of a free roller for Rhode Island communities where leaders want to make a real difference in the battle against potholes.

The mayor said he likes the rollers so much that the town will not only pay VIBCO the discounted $1,599 for the first roller but buy another one to expand the town's new and more efficient pothole program. The machines typically go for $2,295, said Wadensten, but he is committed to getting them into as many communities as possible.

Like Wadensten, he's done with the "old way" of filling potholes, said Lombardi, and is fully on board with VIBCO's mission to create a "cultural change" in the way business is done in Rhode Island. Coming from the business sector, "time is money," said Lombardi, and if workers don't have to keep doing potholes again and again, the town will save money. He called the new machines "a wise investment for the town."

Watch Lombardi explain the roller and town workers demonstrating it:

Wadensten's vibratory roller, which has been in production for a decade, is "a couple steps above a Band-Aid approach," said Lombardi, and will make a real difference for motorists. Because of the pressure from the machines, asphalt becomes so compacted that it stays flat, he said, neither lifting up or depressing over time.

Wadensten had high praise for Lombardi and other town employees, saying the mayor is the "epitome" of what is right with "top-down leadership."

"He understands that this is bigger than just fixing the potholes," he said.

He added, "this is a real exercise in leadership backing their employees as much as it is about potholes, being able to rally around a common theme."

Lombardi understands that the old "throw-and-go" method of doing potholes is far more costly, an estimated $62 a hole instead of the $20 a hole using a VIBCO vibrator. Wadensten produced data from the Federal Highway Administration showing that the "semi-permanent" solution to potholes only costs $20 per repair.

Wadensten said he is committed to "eradicating" the pothole problem in Rhode Island, an issue that puts a dent in residents' wallets each year.

Wadensten was generous in his estimates of how long a VIBCO-rolled patch will last, saying some stay in place four or five years or longer if done properly. Workers need to do the proper preparation for each hole, said Wadensten, and he can't do anything about outside circumstances like rising groundwater, but in a typical scenario, his "micro-sized" vibrating street rollers do the trick in addressing a pothole for the long-term.

Wadensten said he was impressed with the attention to detail by Lombardi and his team, who showed more than two hours working with him that they really care about the program.

A number of other local communities, like Smithfield, Lincoln and North Smithfield, are all taking advantage of the free rollers being offered by Wadensten. Pawtucket officials say they're also on a waiting list for a machine.

Each free roller comes with a list of clear expectations and responsibilities demanded of the recipient community. VIBCO officials offer training and support in exchange for a free roller and a true commitment to skipping the "same old ways of doing things." All users must be willing to change the culture of road maintenance, "using an entirely new pothole repair methodology." Naysayers are not allowed.

"Everyone will work hard to accomplish the shared goal to fix the potholes on Rhode Island roads and to jointly promote Rhode Island," states the list of expectations. "We can show that Rhode Island is the best place to live, and the best place to do business ..."

This pothole on Rosner Avenue is filled, compacted and ready to go.