Milder winter worse for potholes

Near constant freeze/thaw cycles means a 36 percent increase over last year

If money burns a hole in one’s pocket, it’s certainly true that potholes burn a hole into the city’s coffers.

Each year, the city spends about $6 million on fixing potholes. This time around, that number is expected to rise because of the mild winter season.

That may come as a surprise to some. Potholes form when water or wet snow forms puddles on roads when the temperature is above freezing. When water makes its way into cracks in between layers of asphalt and freezes, it expands, pushing the exposed asphalt up, which breaks as cars run over it.

Over time, these cracks get bigger and bigger until they form potholes. The reason we’re seeing more potholes this year is because the temperature has fluctuated wildly, causing more frequent freeze and thaw cycles.

“For a period of time we were experiencing freezing and thawing every day,” explained Myles Currie, a director in the city’s transportation services division. “Ideally, for road conditions, it’s better for the temperature to stay constant.”

The city’s website says city staff repaired more than 275,000 potholes of all shapes and sizes in 2010, at $25 a pop. It takes about four days for a pothole to be repaired from when it is reported.

This year, the number of potholes reported is expected to jump by 36 percent over the same time last year, for the period of November to end of January.

While the March-May season is generally peak season for pothole repairs, the city started repairing earlier this year due to the mild weather.

“What we’re doing is trying to get to the potholes while they’re still relatively small,” Currie said.

In addition, the city has reassigned staff that would normally be doing winter services onto pothole repairs.

If temperatures continue as they have been, it is expected overall the city will see significantly more potholes this year than the last.

“Last year we repaired approximately 170,000 potholes for the entire season,” Currie said. “I would say at this point we’re trending somewhere around 200,000 potholes.”

The city usually responds to pothole complaints on a case-by-case basis, but has also repaved of entire streets. Steeles Avenue, once one of the worst offenders, is now reportedly one of the smoothest drives in the city after the city did an asphalt overhaul in 2010.

“The previous year, the readers of (The Canadian Automobile Association) voted it one of the worst roads in Ontario,” Currie said. “And then we heard back from them that after we did our rehabilitation, it became one of the better roads in the province.”

About this article:

By: Omar Mosleh
Posted: Mar 7 2012 4:05 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto