Driving to work on city streets shouldn’t be dangerous but people who live on the city’s south side say, despite repeated complaints to Houston Public Works about a huge hole in a major roadway, the city delayed repairs, causing thousands of dollars in damage to vehicles. They reached out to KPRC 2 Investigates to get the problem smoothed out.
The city wanted to be clear that one giant hole on Fondren road was not a pothole. KPRC 2 can confirm it is not; but what we discovered may actually be worse because city workers made the hole and then left it for months.
Driver left stranded after hitting huge hole in roadway
A landscaper by day and a Door Dasher by night, Jose Cerritos was just trying to make a few extra bucks delivering food on the night of March 5.
“It was actually gonna’ be my last delivery, too,” said Cerritos.
It would be the last time he drove his Kia Forte when he rolled right into the huge hole on Fondren near the Fort Bend Tollway.
“I could feel the whole bottom of my car just scrape on the cement,” he said.
His Kia sputtered to a parking lot nearby where he left it. The next day, he found it leaking oil. And back at the scene where he bottomed out, there was evidence his vehicle was not the first to roll into the hazardous hole.
“A bunch of plastic. I saw a hubcap that I thought was mine, but it wasn’t,” said Cerritos.
Many complaints were made to 311 about damaged roadway
It appears there have been multiple accidents at the site before, and multiple complaints have been made, as well. Drivers contacted KPRC 2 Investigates and shared 311 complaint numbers they made hoping to get the road repaired.
Cerritos said he called his council member, Martha Castex-Tatum, and spoke with a staffer about his accident and its $1,800 estimate for repairs.
“What’s the probability of me being able to get my car fixed and the city being able to help? She was like, ‘Honestly, nothing.’ They wouldn’t really do too much,” Cerritos said.
Two days after Cerritos’ accident, two and half months after they dug up the roadway, KPRC 2 found a patch job by the city of Houston. The lumps and bumps were not even smoothed out. Cracks were uncovered and loose gravel littered the road. People who live in the area said it was sloppy.
“If that’s fixing it. I don’t wow, that’s a new definition of fixing,” said Brandon Mamou.
“I mean, why would they do that? That’s not a proper fix when it rains. It’s gonna wash it up and the hole is still there,” said nearby resident Irene.
What did the city say about the bad repair job?
Houston Public Works told KPRC 2: “This repair on Fondren road did not meet our standards and we are reviewing our internal quality controls to correct this moving forward.”
But city work orders explain the *whole* mess. Here are a few key dates from the work orders.
- November 10 = A city inspector discovered a nearby fire hydrant leaking water under the roadway.
- December 19 = They called for a backhoe and crew to dig down and fix the leak, which required making the huge hole in the road. The city says they patched the hole temporarily.
- February 7 = One citizen emailed 311 about the large hole they left (any patch job done by the city had washed or worn away). City records show the complaint was a “duplicate case/ previously reported by another citizen.”
“Right now, I’m out of a car and I’m out of $1,800,” said Cerritos.
The same day, KPRC 2 called the city about the dangerous conditions on the road, a crew was there with a permanent fix. But drivers like Kent Maloney who blew a tire on his work truck in this same spot say the city should pay for drivers’ damages.
“I don’t think that’s right because, on something like this, this is something that shouldn’t have taken more than a week to repair,” said Maloney.
In a statement, the city listed supply chain delays, staffing vacancies, and some 350 water main breaks they are fixing a day to explain why the repair took so long.
Will the city pay for damage done to vehicles on the damaged roadway?
Attorneys tell KPRC 2 Investigates that even though the city denies almost all claims submitted for property damage, if a citizen can prove the city knew about the hazardous road condition and they failed to fix it in a timely manner, they may be able to get their money back. If filing a claim doesn’t work, you can sue.
RELATED: How to get the city to pay for pothole damage
The city says if an individual would like to file a claim, they may do so with the City Secretary’s Office.
Below is the full City of Houston statement:
“Houston Public Works crews work to restore our roadways after water main repairs. All hands are on deck to keep up with the demand to repair the roadways, as we work continuously to address water main leaks. This is a tremendous effort to keep up with the demand for roadway restoration, with over 350 water main repairs completed weekly. We are working to ramp up staffing levels and adding contractors to our water operations restoration team. We also have safety protocols in place to alert drivers when roadway repairs are underway, such as placing cones to block off the roadway when necessary.
The damage on Fondren Road was reported in November. An asphalt patch was put in place with cones to block off part of the roadway, but the patch later failed due to rainfall. Supply chain delays and staffing vacancies ultimately delayed the completion of the restoration. The concrete has been poured at this location to restore the roadway.
This repair on Fondren Road did not meet our standards, and we are reviewing our internal quality controls to correct this moving forward.”
We followed up with this question: Should drivers with damage from the ongoing unrepaired road damage file claims with the city?
“The record of complaints and the length of period the city knew the hazard was there seems to show the city did not act in a timely manner to fix the road to prevent injury and/ or property damage to citizens. Even one of those big steel plates covering the roadway as a temporary fix would have prevented vehicles from dropping down in the hole while they waited 4 months for a permanent repair.”
Katelynn Burns, Houston Public Works Spokesperson:
“The damage was not unfixed for four months; as previously mentioned, there was a temporary repair put into place.
If an individual would like to file a claim, they may do so with the City Secretary’s Office.