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Potholes and more potholes

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Notice all the new potholes plaguing the roads of Middlesex County? They’re popping up everywhere and seem to have appeared overnight. Maybe the first thing noticed was an increase in vehicles swerving to avoid that nasty “thump.” The sound itself is enough to make one cringe with concern for his precious vehicle.

According to VDOT Resident Engineer Marcie Parker, the recent potholes were created by the “freeze-thaw” cycle. Precipitation seeps into small crevices in the asphalt and, when the water freezes, the water particles expand and break loose pieces of stone and binder (an oil and tar mixture). When the ice thaws there is nothing holding the debris together, so it gets scattered to the side.

The salt and chemicals that VDOT applies during snow and ice storms “is also a contributor to the erosion,” said Parker.

A closer look will reveal that most of the potholes look identical in depth and similar in dimension. Parker explains that when VDOT resurfaces primary roads, it adds 1.5 to 2 inches of asphalt. Most of the water that seeps through permeable areas of the asphalt collects between the old and new layers, so the resulting erosion is fairly uniform.

It usually takes several “freeze-thaw” cycles to create a pothole and, according to Parker, most of them occur in close proximity to a recent repair where the surrounding asphalt has been weakened. “This winter has been worse than the past few years,” she explained, “but not the worst I’ve seen.

“We are aware of the potholes on the primary system, and we are getting some calls for the secondary roads, but we mostly rely on citizens to let us know,” she said.

Drivers are asked to report damage on secondary roads to VDOT’s Middlesex Area Headquarters at 758-2157. 

posted 03.20.2009

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