Thursday, February 25, 2010

Nobody Likes a Pothole

It will soon be that time of year; the snow will begin to melt, temperatures will begin to warm up and before you know it we’ll hear the first sounds of spring…our tires falling into potholes. Potholes are annoying – period.

Potholes occur because of expansion and contraction of water under the pavement. This expansion causes pavement to bend and crack, leaving gaps or voids. When cars drive over these gaps, the pavement collapses and pieces of roadway are kicked out, creating a pothole. The more freeze-thaw cycles an area has (like most of Missouri), the more potholes you will see.

Roads with high traffic volumes have more potholes due to amount of use. Bridges and ramps, which receive more salt and snow removal chemicals in the winter, also are more prone to potholes. Older roads tend to have more, as you’ve probably noticed.

Our Maintenance crews try to get out and patch potholes for safety reasons, as soon as the weather allows. Repairing potholes during inclement weather, or when an immediate repair is needed to maintain safety, means using cold patch asphalt until a more permanent repair can be performed. These patches are quick to do, but only temporary.

When the weather warms up, hot asphalt patching of potholes begins. These patches usually take more time to fix, depending on size and location, but will last considerably longer.

The long-term solution to potholes is to reconstruct the pavement, but this is also the most expensive option that takes the most amount of time.

If you notice a pothole on a state route, try using MoDOT’s online form to let us know. So even though we all agree potholes are annoying, please be patient as our crews work hard to patch them as quickly and safely as possible.

For a better look at how roads deteriorate over time, view the Life Cycle of a Highway video: