By Brooke Stevenson
Even though it may seem like the number of potholes has increased significantly since this time last year, officials say that is not the case.
Potholes are a product of water that gets into the cracks of the asphalt pavement that then expands after a freeze and thaw cycle, which then busts the asphalt out of place.
“It would be like putting a can of coke in your freezer for a few hours,” said TDOT official Bud Slaton. “The liquid would expand and the canister would not be able to hold the liquid and bust open, it is the same exact physics behind potholes.”
He added that TDOT does not wait for a certain time or temperature to fix the potholes and repair them with temporary patching material as soon as they are notified of the holes or find them upon visual inspection.
This temporary material is used until hot mix asphalt is available, and then TDOT will go back to the pot holes and fix them permanently. The only reason the hot mix is not used initially is because the plants are closed this time of year.
“That is our biggest problem,” Slaton said. “Plants are not open because of the low temperatures. It takes tens of thousands of dollars to crank one of those plants up.
“When you are patching a pothole you may only use one to two tons of material, so unless the person with the plant has several buyers that day, then we are not able to get that permanent patching material.”
He added that in the summer time plants are making mix every day because of driveways being paved, streets being built, and so on.
“It is hard to find that mix in the winter,” Slaton said. “Every morning my crews call upwards of 10 to 15 asphalt plants to find out if any of them is making asphalt that morning.
“If they are we will send everybody we got, in every different county, down there to try to get materials.”
Plants do not open based on a specific time, but more so a specific temperature, added Slaton, if the temperature is below 50 degrees it is unlikely plants will be making hot asphalt mix.
The temporary patching material may come out of a hole three, four, or five different times, according to Slaton, and this may give residents the impression of a greater amount of holes in the road.
“I don’t think we’re seeing more potholes, I think we are seeing a lot more awareness of potholes,” he said. “We haven’t seen that we are having to use more material than in the past.
“It is unfortunate because of the moisture and cold weather we have had a lot of potholes but we usually do have a lot this time of year.”
One noticeable difference between this year and previous years is the long stretches of cold weather.
“Because of the long periods of cold weather there have been longer periods of time in between when we can go back and permanently fix the holes with hot patch, so that might make it seem like there are more holes even if there isn‘t.”
TDOT: Pothole Numbers Not Up This Year
By Brooke Stevenson