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Since 1991, some 280 motorists have filed claims with the state saying potholes damaged their vehicles. Fifty-two of them were approved.

No matter where a pothole is or how wide and deep it gets, the Utah Department of Transportation has to be negligent for a motorist to be paid for the damage.And the state decides whether the state was negligent. All claims are forwarded to the state Division of Risk Management.

Even the Park City Fire Department couldn't talk the state into paying for a ruined suspension system.

Chief Kelly Gee said two of his fire engines were pounded in 1993 by U-224, causing $5,500 worth of damage.

Gee sent a letter to the state and received a reply saying the state was not negligent and the claim was denied.

"I was really quite surprised," he said.

The road has been under constant construction for years. The trucks and equipment have been rough on the road surface, Gee said.

"The taxpayers are going to pay for this in one form or another," Gee said. "If the state of Utah has the method for paying . . . they should do so rather than have local taxpayers pay for it."

The freeze-thaw cycle of the winter months is devastating to roads, said LeGrand Jones, UDOT's pothole expert. Water gets in cracks and then expands when it freezes, cracking the road like cubes in an ice tray. When cars and trucks drive over the cracks, chunks of asphalt fly out, leaving a pothole.

"When you try to repair those in the cold weather they may last from two hours to two days," said Alan Edwards, the state risk manager. "Sometimes it's been repaired between (the) times" drivers went plowing into it.

Road crews constantly monitor the roads, Jones said, filling the potholes whenever they can. During the spring, crews are limited to night hours because they have to shut down lanes of traffic.

The job has gotten tougher over the years due to the increase in traffic and aging highways.

As long as UDOT makes an effort to get to a pothole as soon as possible, the state is not negligent, Jones and Edwards said.