Cold temperatures cause uptick in potholes and road buckles

Cold temperatures cause uptick in potholes and road buckles

Cold temperatures are causing issues on the road and the Department of Transportation said the problems should be expected in Wisconsin’s changing climate.

On Thursday morning, the road buckled on the westbound Beltline, causing a 12-car crash around 6 a.m. The Beltline buckled again Thursday around 8:30 p.m. , this time eastbound, causing lane closures and traffic backups.

“Anytime frozen water, ice expands- we can have a problem,” said Barry Paye, chief materials and pavements engineer at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. “All the materials we use to build roads expand and contract. They expand when it’s hot and they contract when it’s cold.”

Moisture collects in cracks in the road. When the moisture freezes, it pushes the road materials up.

“We’ve got some repair materials that are very good at staying together, so they are kind of coming up in one large chunk instead of small pieces. And that’s where we’re seeing some of the problems right now,” said Paye.

He said D.O.T. is seeing an uptick in potholes this winter because of days of below freezing temperatures. They are usually more common in the spring.

“It is a lot more difficult to fix when it’s cold, but we do have materials like a cold patch that we can put on, that’s not reliant on heat to keep that temporary surface there,” said Paye.

There are many cold patches on the Beltline. They provide a temporary fix and if they do start coming up, it should be one stone at a time, not in large pieces.

“Come spring and summer next year, we’ll come back, remove them, and we’ll do a night maintenance, take them out and put better materials in that will last a little longer,” said Paye.

Dane County crews do surveillance on the Beltline every day, looking for possible issues, but drivers also need to be aware.

“Above all, drive at a speed that’s appropriate for the conditions at hand, whether it’s changing pavement conditions, changing weather conditions, or for service vehicles that might be performing work on the roadway,” said Mike Bie, spokesperson for the Department of Transportation.

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