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Now that the snow is finally (almost) all gone, you are probably aghast to see what’s been left behind.  In some places, it looks like a lunar landscape.

Potholes.  Craters.

Why Are Most Wintertime Pothole “Repairs” Temporary?
With freeze-thaw conditions, New Jersey motorists may wonder why potholes often linger until spring. The reasons are a combination of physics and economics.

Unfortunately, public works departments (DPWs) and departments of transportation (DOTs)  can’t keep up with  potholes because they tend to concentrate in a three-month timeframe. Potholes form primarily during February through April, when temperatures fluctuate above and below freezing.

It’s also physically hard to repair potholes at the very time when they become most prevalent. When temperatures are low, it’s almost impossible to work with hot asphalt because it cools in the trip from the plants where it’s made to the roads where it is needed. In fact, in the colder (northern) parts of the U.S. the asphalt plants shut down altogether between November and March – it’s simply not economical for them to operate because so few customers can use their product in those months. Even trucks that are specially equipped with heated compartments can only reach so many potholes in the course of a workday to repair the streets.

Additionally, fixing potholes in winter is difficult due to moisture: snow, ice and water naturally collect in the holes and cracks. The existing pavement needs to be dry for most asphalt mixtures to “tack” to form a solid, permanent bond. If moisture remains in the hole it can start the deterioration process all over again: freezing, expanding and allowing room for more precipitation to enter and expand further as the temperatures drop again below 32 degrees.

The solution used in most places is to throw looser, temporary cold mix asphalt into holes to minimize potholes for a few weeks at best. When warmer and drier conditions prevail, road crews return to lay in a more permanent hot mix.

There are types of permanent cold mix asphalt that can be used in winter, and in some situations DPWs/DOTs in fact use them. They tend to cost more however the combined expense of materials and labor associated with temporary pothole repairs made two, three or more times in a single season might make the permanent cold mix asphalt more cost effective in the final analysis.

Another method used by some DPW/DOTs involves pothole repair vehicles equipped with special apparatus that heats affected pavement and uses high-intensity air blowers to dry it, after which the hole can be adequately repaired. But methods of this type require the purchase or leasing of dedicated machinery. The New Jersey DOT leased six such “Pothole Killer” vehicles in 2011 at a cost of $337,000 for four months.  This year, the State plans to deploy thirteen of the machines.

There are lots of potholes to be filled and until they are drivers need to be alert and drive with caution.

If you have had a pothole accident, you need an experienced lawyer.  Call 732-442-5900 or 1-800-RITELAW (1-800-748-3529) and make an appointment with one of the accident attorneys at Joworisak & Associates.  You can make an appointment at our main office in Perth Amboy or one of our other convenient locations in Middlesex, Union, Hudson and Essex counties.

– Karim

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