Do freezing temperatures impact our roads?

(Source: KAIT-TV)
(Source: KAIT-TV)

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - We bundle up to protect our bodies from the cold.

We cover up our faucets and wrap pipes to keep them from freezing in the frigid temperatures.

But what about Arkansas roads?

Does the weather affect them?

Arkansas Department of Transportation Spokesman Danny Straessle said the weather absolutely has an effect on Arkansas roads.

"What we're going through right now," Straessle said. "Is the freeze-thaw cycle. And as the nighttime temperatures get down to the teens and below freezing any water that has seeped into underneath the pavement will freeze and expand. And then when the temperature goes by up during the daytime hours that water will revert to a liquid. And as it continues to do that freeze-thaw process it gouges out the dirt that is up underneath supporting the roadbed. Eventually, that material, enough of it is excavated by the freeze-thaw cycle and then the road simply falls in. That's why you have a pothole."

Straessle said they begin working to fight the effects of winter weather during the summer months.

"So, really our care and maintenance of the highway system," Straessle said. "To prevent this begins several months earlier during the summer months where we typically run our annual ceiling and overlay program. This is why it's always important to overlay and seal our asphalt roads to keep the cracks from allowing water to get underneath the roadbed."

Straessle said the lace of precipitation falling from the sky has been good, but it doesn't mean there's nothing to be concerned about.

"We've been very fortunate," Straessle said. "That we haven't had a lot of frozen precipitation to deal with. What we're mainly dealing with is groundwater migration or busted pipes. Anything that puts water out on the highway and allows it to get where it's going. So, we can't really do much about the groundwater migration. But with the precipitation that typically comes with during the winter. . .snow, ice, freezing rain and things like that typically makes these potholes more prevalent it would seem as the winter months continue. The potholes are in motion long before a particular winter weather or a low temperature event. They're out there lurking everywhere. It's just a matter of which event is going to make its presence known. So, what we do, we really can't do a lot in terms of patching and overlay right now because those are really warm month activities. Because of the hot asphalt mix we use and to get it to bind properly it needs to be temperatures typically above 40 degrees. And so, really in the winter, all we can do is take note of these potholes as they are making themselves known. We do have cold mix patches. Which allows our crews to basically do what we call a 'throw and go'. They go out there, throw it into the hole, tamp it down and get out of the way before traffic comes. And so, those are temporary patches to be sure. Of course, if we get a big rain that follows this it washes it right back out. In a lot of places, it's a very futile effort, but it's the least that we can do."

Straessle said motorists can help by keeping them informed of what they see when out on the road.

"Know what we encourage motorists to do," Straessle said. "We have a feature on our travel and information site I Drive Arkansas Dot Com. It's called 'Report a Problem'. This is where your viewers can go if they encounter a pothole somewhere on the state highway system and they'd like to report it. We get many pothole reports through this method and we always enjoy hearing from the public because they're very invested in our highway system. It's their highway system and a collective effort to keep those potholes at bay and keep a smooth driving surface out there is really a good thing."

Straessle said business owners can apply what happens on the roadways to their own parking lots.

"Asphalt parking lots are not too unlike the asphalt highways that we have," Straessle said. "You have a subgrade that supports the asphalt on it and it works the same way. So, really any water that impacts asphalt in a parking lot will do the same as a highway will. So, if you have cracks in your asphalt then you want to get those sealed when the warmer months come. Or you may want to look at an overlay to keep those cracks at bay. The goal here is to keep water from seeping into the alligator style cracking that we typically see in asphalt. And if you can control that then your ahead of the game."

Straessle said they do their best to keep Arkansas roads safe and easy to travel on.

"It's a constant battle for us," Straessle said. "We've got more than 16,400 miles of highway across the state. And you can imagine how many miles of asphalt we have out there. And so, to be able to look after every single nook and cranny and crack that opens up during the winter months is almost near impossible. But we do our best."

To report a problem, click here.

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