CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – In West Virginia, it seems that there are two seasons – winter and road construction. That construction is what a lot of Mountaineers dread on the roadways because that means it is time to fix the potholes.
According to WVU Assistant Professor Dr. P.V. Vijay, potholes are caused by four things:
Water, temperature, stress coming onto the pavement from traffic, along with the aging of the material.Dr. P.V. Vijay – Assistant Professor, Statler College of Engineering
He said that the snow and rain in the colder months getting underneath the pavement along with fluctuating temperatures can cause the start of a pothole.
Vijay said that “water at 4 degrees Celsius (or 39 degrees Fahrenheit) expands when it freezes, so this kind of expansion creates stress on the pavement underneath, and that expansion’s stress will cause the pavement material to begin cracking.”
West Virginia Division of Highways Deputy State Highway Engineer Joe Pack agrees.
If we could build a road that didn’t have water or traffic on it, it would last forever.Joe Pack – West Virginia Division of Highways Deputy State Highway Engineer Joe Pack agrees.
But unfortunately, those pothole dreams are not a reality.
“Tires repetitively load the asphalt, and weaken the asphalt, and it will grow every time a tire goes over it and more water is introduced and then it freezes,” said Pack.
Those two processes from both man and Mother Nature create the pothole, but how can we try to mitigate the problem that happens every single year?
Getting the water out of the road as quickly as possible. That’s why you’ll see us clearing ditch lines and sloping our shoulders properly.Joe Pack – West Virginia Division of Highways Deputy State Highway Engineer Joe Pack agrees.
But it also takes a certain temperature, as most potholes in the Mountain State occur around now – late Winter and early Spring. Because of potential cold, the DOH may have to wait until it’s a certain temperature or after the rain fades for a while to make sure that their materials work properly to fill the potholes.
“If the road temperature is ten degrees and we go out there and try to repair a pothole properly, it probably will not bond,” said Pack.
And as we wait for warmer and drier weather, the DOH aims to finish pothole repair by Memorial Day.