ST. LOUIS – The wet spring and summer storms bring with them a lot of problems in the moment, like rising rivers and flooding in low-lying areas. But the inclement weather leaves behind the lingering issue of potholes.

Bob Becker, district maintenance engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation, said they spend between $15 million and $20 million a year on patching and repairing potholes.

“Not just the product itself, but the people to get out there, because we’ve got to have a large train of people, two or three teams, because it is a moving operation, typically,” he said. “So, we’ve got a lot of people out there. A lot of equipment out there.”

Potholes are formed in roadways when snow or rain seeps into cracks or joints in the pavement and later freezes. As water freezes, it expands, like ice cubes. That expansion slowly breaks down the integrity of the asphalt above and the gravel and rock that support the road. This happens repeatedly in the winter. The expansion, thawing, and seeping rainwater weaken the asphalt and leave small gaps in the road.

The weight of passing vehicles compresses the weakened asphalt and roadbed, increasing the size of the gaps and, sometimes, peeling away chunks of asphalt or concrete. What’s left are potholes.

Some have decried St. Louis as having the “worst roads in America” while others have complained over the years about potholes covered with metal sheets and left unrepaired. The nuisance of potholes can cost motorists hundreds or even thousands in car repair or tire replacement.

You stare at an unfilled pothole long enough, you might start to wonder, “I can fix that. I mean, it’s been done before.”

But doing so could land you in hot water, according to Brown & Crouppen attorney Andrea McNairy. Speaking with FOX 2, McNairy says any person who makes any road repair themselves could be liable if anyone is injured as a result of that unsanctioned work.

McNairy points to Missouri Statute 229.300, which doesn’t mention potholes by name but would be covered due to the language of the law.

…it shall be unlawful for any person, firm, association or corporation to excavate or encroach on, or cause to be excavated or encroached on, or to lay, locate, erect, remove or maintain any conduits, poles, pole lines, wires, mains, pipes, conductors, sewers, tramways or drains, within, upon or across the right-of-way of any street, avenue, boulevard, road, alley, public easement, or highway…

Mo. Statute 229.300

So, while it is not specifically denoted as “illegal,” the language is such that you could face legal repercussions from fixing a pothole yourself.

If you have a pothole to report on state-controlled roads or highways, you can contact MoDOT at 1-888-ASK-MODOT (275-6636) or by clicking here. To report a pothole in St. Louis City, contact their Citizens Service Bureau by phone at 314-622-4800 or online.