Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

February 2, 2014

Rough riding

Potholes popping up everywhere, thanks to the weather

By Kaley Lynch kaley.lynch@lockport.journal.com
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — It’s not news. Lockport has a pothole problem.

Though the craters form in roads every winter and spring, this winter’s fluctuating temperatures are to blame for the extra rough condition of streets in the city.

Mayor Michael Tucker says this year’s crop of craters is the most abundant one he’s seen in years.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time, and it’s as bad as I can remember,” Tucker said. “It’s been a tough winter.”

No street has been spared. Although high-traffic areas like Main Street and Transit Road are the most severely pockmarked, side streets are also feeling the impact.

“Willow and Pine streets are badly damaged; there’s really not a road in the city that’s not,” Tucker said.

Quick transitions in air temperature, from below zero degrees to entering the 40s, have wreaked havoc on pavement this winter, according to Norman Allen, city director of engineering and public works.

“The freeze-thaw temperatures have been damaging ... . It’s been a more severe winter than normal as far as affecting road conditions,” he said.

Potholes form when snow or rain seeps into the soil below pavement surfaces, especially when the pavement is already worn from high volume traffic. When the temperature drops, the water freezes and expands, which widens the cracks and creates bulging sections of pavement. When the temperature rises, the ice melts and leaves a cavity below the pavement surface, which collapses into a small hole when run over by vehicles.

Potholes can form within hours.

Public works crews are patching potholes whenever and wherever they can, but the pavement can’t be permanently fixed until the weather warms up, city officials said.

“We’ve had trucks out every day, trying to repair the roads when they’re not plowing,” Tucker said.

During winter, crews use “cold patches” of asphalt to repair fissures in pavement. Cold patching is only effective for a short time, however. Hot asphalt, the permanent remedy, can’t be applied in cold, wet weather. According to Tucker, the soonest that remedy can be applied is usually April.

“The best way to fix it is to repave, and the asphalt companies won’t be available until spring,” he said.