Pothole on East Bay highway damages dozens of vehicles

Motorists in Pacheco have been caught off guard by a sizable road hazard.

The hazard is nearly invisible to the naked eye, but still large enough to swallow a big rig’s big tire.

On southbound Highway 680, near the Highway 4 interchange, an enemy on Tuesday attacked upwards of two dozen vehicles from underneath.

"I hit a pothole. I was the second person. And then as I pulled over with a flat, said a driver who only wished to be identified as Bill. "Cars just keep coming in with flats. Same thing."

Caltrans officials said since January, their crews have responded to over 7,300 potholes around the Bay Area. High-volume roadways, and older surfaces, are particularly vulnerable to this problem.

"We are seeing a lot more potholes on the road because of the weather," said Caltrans spokesman Jeffery Weiss.

Experts said rainwater works its way deep into cracked, aging surfaces. Then, pressure from passing traffic creates more damage, and ultimately a hole forms.

"The water then interacts with those layers. Which means, as those cracks get bigger in the pavement, it’s able to pop off, and creates potholes," said Dr. Laura Sullivan-Green, a civil & environmental engineer at San Jose State University.

Impact with large potholes is sending motorists to their local repair shops. Mechanics at E&S Automotive in San Jose said they have seen a spike in business the past few months related to repairs from pothole damage.

"Damaging the tires. Damaging the suspension components. We get quite a few of those," said Alaro Avelar.

Caltrans officials say drivers can file claims for damage. There were 363 claimants in 2021, 581 last year. And in the first two months of this year, over 280 claims.

"We’re sending out crews to repair potholes on a larger scale, more often this winter, given the amount of rain. And instead of going out to an area and patching one or two, sometimes they’ll go out and repave a whole section of road," said Weiss.

He said the public can help the process by pointing out problems. But in some cases, the problem is so large and has done so much damage already, it appears to speak for itself.

"I was just following the guy in front of me, and, boom!," said Bill.

Drivers who sustained damage from a pothole on a state roadway can file a claim on the Caltrans website.

Jesse Gary is a reporter based in the station's South Bay bureau. Follow him on Twitter, @JesseKTVU and Instagram, @jessegontv.