Potholes expected to be worst in recent memory
BEMIDJI – Brace yourselves, drivers.
The constant freezing-and-thawing cycles that have characterized the winter may cause a significant increase in potholes on local streets this year.
“It’s certainly going to be the worst year in the six years that I’ve been here,” said Bemidji city engineer Craig Gray. “And I think, probably, we’re going to see the worst that we’ve seen in the last decade.”
Gray explained potholes are created when moisture gets down into the pavement, freezes and then expands. That process has occasionally happened on a daily basis in recent weeksincluding Sunday, when temperatures reached 38 degrees but dipped to 14 degrees.
“We’ve had many melts; it melts every day and then it freezes at night,” Gray said. “We have two crews at it every day and it’s just going to be very difficult to keep up.”
Heavy traffic also contributes to pothole formation and older roads tend to be more susceptible, Gray added.
Gray added that the problem is exacerbated by the lack of “hot mix” asphalt now available to his crews to patch potholes. Instead, they have to use a cold mix until the bituminous plants that produce the hot mix are open.
“A cold mix, if you’re lucky and good, you’ll get three days out of it before it’s gone,” Gray said. “When we patch them with hot mix, then they sometimes last the entire season.”
“So we’re going back once a week to roads that we’ve done a week before.”
Beltrami County engineer Bruce Hasbargen said so far, the pothole season hasn’t been out of the ordinary.
“I know we’re out patching potholes but I don’t know if it’s any worse or not,” he said. “But in theory, the freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw is what pops them out.”
Gray encouraged drivers to notify the city of problem areas, noting that it recently introduced a way to report potholes through the city’s website.