City tests new weapons in fight against potholes; one product is like a bag of Silly Putty

It’s that time of the year — when the unsuspecting driver suddenly feels the slam of a pothole beneath the car’s wheels, an experience that can be jarring, unpleasant — and expensive.

Now Boston officials are hoping technology can help drivers by bringing new pothole-filling solutions that can be used on nights or weekends, when asphalt plants are closed and there are no other options to permanently fill the gaping holes.

The city piloted three new pothole filling solutions Thursday, bringing three different companies to Dorchester to test their quick-fix products on a trio of potholes on Bowdoin Avenue. The products will be tested over the course of the next six months to see how they hold up.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Elmo Baldassari, Boston’s deputy commissioner of public works, said officials are hoping to see if two of the products — products manufactured by companies called Aquaphalt and Unique Paving Materials —could help his staff permanently repair potholes on nights and weekends, rather than putting in temporary fixes that must be re-repaired weeks or months later.

The products are more expensive than regular asphalt, but are more eco-friendly and can be carried in bags or buckets in the back of a truck without risk of permanent hardening.

“If this product does work like they say it does,” Baldassari said, “we won’t have to come back here in six or seven months, chasing our tails. We could do it once and be done.”

The third company in the pothole-patching competition took a more unusual approach: Their product, called Hole Patch, consists of a Silly-Putty-like material encased in hardy plastic bags, a fix for a few hours or days while crews come out to make a permanent pothole repair. The sack of putty is liquid when left to its own devices, but once it is placed under pressure, such as the weight of a passing car, it instantly becomes a solid. After the pressure subsides, the product returns to being a liquid — which means it is pliable and could be used in different potholes over and over.

“It’s meant to be a very quick, temporary fix,” said Nicholas Barron, co-founder of Hole Patch, as he tossed one of the sacks in the pothole. “It’s that easy, just throw and go.”