Freeze-thaw, freeze-thaw: It’s a costly combination for local roads that has highway departments scrambling to repair those pesky potholes that pop up this time of year.
Potholes form when water that has seeped into the cracks of pavement freezes and expands, widening the cracks. The water eventually thaws once the temperature rises.
As the process repeats itself throughout the winter, cracks splinter and pavement weakens. The problem is made worse by traffic that chips away at cracked pavement.
Potholes started to crop up last week as roads began to return to their normal temperatures, according to several local highway superintendents.
“When you start to feel the warmth and you know the frost is out of the ground, that’s when you really see potholes,” said Richard Kukuk, the highway superintendent in Clifton Park.
“It’s really just starting. We’ve noticed it in the last week or so.”
Kukuk said his workers will repair up to 100 potholes per day in Clifton Park next month when potholes problems are at their worst.
Highway crews use “cold patch” in the winter to fix potholes since it is too cold to produce and heat asphalt.
The cold patch is temporary and less durable than regular pavement, according to Ballston Highway Superintendent Joseph Whalen.
“I don’t experience as many potholes as I used to,” he said. “The roads that we used to experience them on we’ve redone, so we don’t see them as much.”
In Glenville, Highway Superintendent and Public Works Commissioner Rick LeClair said the town tries to repave every road once every 10 years. Newer roads don’t form cracks as easily as older roads, he said.
“We have two road supervisors that monitor the roads,” LeClair said. “Every hole’s important to fix, but you’ve got to set up a priority.”
LeClair said that snow plows can make potholes even worse when the plow scrapes against the cracked pavement.
“It’s like magic,” he said. “The next day when the plow goes by you’ve got a pothole. It’ll even lift up the cold patch that we use.”
Winter weather isn’t the only culprit that causes potholes, though. Kukuk said that utility crews that open up the pavement to install pipes or lines can sometimes cause cracks if the pavement isn’t fully sealed.
“If that seam has any kind of a difference, the wheels of the traffic will break it up,” Kukuk said. “You want to make a pavement that ideally is seamless, so the new pavement matches the old pavement.”
Kukuk estimated that about $30,000 of his $1 million yearly paving budget would be spent between now and spring repairing potholes.
“Once you get any pavement that’s any age it starts to show wear,” he said. “If all pavement were new and solid then it wouldn’t have cracks for moisture to get into.”
To report potholes on state-owned highways, including the Thruway and Northway, call 1-800-POTHOLE.
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Categories: Schenectady County