It is that time of year when we start to think of green grass, flowers, trees blooming and wheel alignment. Wheel alignment is as true to spring as the Easter bunny. It is pothole season. You say…POTHOLES!
The Birth of a Pothole
We just came out of the snowiest February in history for Colorado and many parts of the country accompanied, with intensely cold temperatures. Now as the temperatures begin to moderate back toward seasonal norms, the appearance of potholes is definitely in full bloom. In fact, they grow overnight. I know that sounds like a bit of a story, but it is actually true.
Most roads in this country are built in the same manner, compacted soil topped with road base and then paved with either asphalt or concrete. The formation of a pothole is a product of cracks, water, cold and then warm temperatures. Water will find its way under a paved surface, whether by way of a crack in the surface or by infiltration from the roadside due to differing levels of compaction in the sub-grade and / or the expansion and contraction from the environment.
If there is a low spot, water will find it. Once there is an opening and water seeps into the road structure the natural freeze /thaw cycle will begin the process of separating the pavement from the sub-grade and an air pocket is formed. The pocket allows a weakening beneath the paved surface and viola! A pothole is born.
The size of the pothole is dictated by the number of motorists that hit that same area. Giving a size description ranging for a dip, depression, cavity, pit to cavity. Some are large enough to engulf some of the vehicle on the road.
As all of our roadways age, the need for maintenance increases. The older the infrastructure the greater the chance for potholes and it always seems that the pothole situation gets more pronounced every year.
The City of Denver has repaired over 10,700 potholes this year as compared to 6,100 the previous year. The best fix is to dig out the affected area and replace the road base and then replace with hot mix asphalt. This process takes time and when there are hundreds to thousands to be repaired, the most common is to perform a temporary patch and hope it lasts until there is sufficient time to make a permanent repair.
The bottom line is that potholes are a part of our driving environment and the battle to minimize them is an ongoing maintenance problem that is guided by dollars that have been squeezed by ever-tightening budgets of every agency and municipality in the United States.
Slow down a little and pay attention to the road, those road crews are out there doing their best and trying to keep you safe and those wheels aligned.