With spring finally here, ‘tis the season for potholes – every driver’s (and their vehicle’s) worst nightmare. Swerve as you will, there is no escaping them.
Potholes are particularly troublesome across the campus of Lorain County Community College. Spend a day on campus, and the zigzagging cars swerving to avoid holes in the road are the norm.
“I just dealt with some [potholes] this morning,” said Savannah Derrick, an LCCC police science major. “I try to avoid them.”
More common after winter, potholes are created by the expansion and contraction of groundwater. As it freezes, groundwater expands. Think of a tray of ice cubes. At first, it’s just a tray of water. But when left in the freezer for a few hours, the water will have expanded into fully-formed ice cubes. Potholes are created in a similar fashion, according to the Summit County Engineer.
Once groundwater seeps in underneath the pavement and freezes, it takes up more space, and the pavement bends, cracks, and expands to accomodate. This process weakens the pavement material, creating gaps under the surface of the road. As vehicles pass over the weak spot, the weight then further breaks down the pavement, creating the pothole.
LCCC’s campus began repair work on its roads on April 13, according to LCCC Director of Physical Plant Operations Dale Lucas.
Physical Plant crews have already laid down five tons of cold patch (a temporary pothole repair agent), before the cold weather hit. But with one of the area’s coldest winters on record, it didn’t last.
“Most [of the cold patch] came out during the heavy rain and freezing we experienced,” Lucas reported.
All areas of campus have been affected, particularly along North Drive between parking lots 6 and 7, and on East Drive headed towards the Lab Sciences building and parking lot 5.
“I just completely avoid the back road,” said Elizabeth Wreyford, a second year nursing student. “I haven’t seen anyone working on the roads.”
Unfortunately, it is a common occurrence in our area with the cold winter weather. The problem has only been exacerbated by the subzero temperatures that hit the state this year.
Road crews in North Ridgeville have been utilizing a machine called a Falcon Recycler, as reported by cleveland.com. The city paid $38,000 last July for the equipment, which melts previously used debris from torn up streets to create a hot patch that will last for years.
The city of Avon has taken a similar approach, sending out crews to do repair work after each snow plow. Avon also has a crew member that circles the city and makes lists of the repairs that need done.These treacherous road conditions have forced many area drivers to file claims with their cities. Between December 2013 and April 2014, the law director’s office in Elyria investigated about 22 related claims submitted by residents. Only one of those claims was paid out in the amount of $64.57, according to the Chronicle Telegram.
Repair plans on the campus of LCCC does not involve a total resurfacing of roads and parking lots, but includes an effort to grind out any major damages in the pavement and fill all potholes. According to Lucas, all roads and parking lot will be impacted.
“I had a flat tire not too long ago,” said Breanna Meyers, a second year special education major. “I don’t know if it’s a direct result of the potholes on campus, [but] it’s possible.”
Tire puncture and wear-and-tear are just the beginning of a myriad of issues that can be caused by potholes. Damages can also include premature wear on shocks, suspension breakage, misalignment of the steering system, exhaust system damage, and even engine damage, according to Firestone Auto Care.
Derrick voiced her concern. “[I think] patching the bigger holes is important,” she said. “If too much damage happens, you can’t get to class or go to work.”
American drivers could be paying roughly $6.4 billion for car repairs due to potholes, with many drivers paying out-of- pocket to cover those costs, the American Automobile Association (AAA) reported.
About 500,000 claims are filed annually for pothole damage, according to the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America (IIABA). The IIABA also cited a 1997 Environmental Working Group and Surface Transportation Policy Project report, which stated that motorists spent approximately $4.8 billion on pothole-related repairs and poor road conditions. That amount is nearly four times the $1.3 billion spent on road and highway repairs by state highway departments each year.
The AAA suggests several tips to avoid pothole damage to a vehicle: Maintaining correct amount of air pressure in tires, watching for potholes by leaving plenty of space between you and the car in front of you, and maintaining proper speeds are all ways that can lessen the damages caused by potholes.
“Like anywhere you drive,” Lucas said, “just be cautious of road conditions and slow down.”