Do Salt and Snowplows Cause Potholes?

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Salt and snowplows can make potholes worse. But blame time, traffic, temperature and precipitation for most asphalt pavement deterioration. A common misperception is that road salt and snowplows are what cause potholes. Both can be at least partially responsible, but that doesn’t explain why there are potholes in Los Angeles, Miami and Honolulu. Potholes are a product of precipitation, temperature, traffic and time. To be more specific, temperatures fluctuating above and below freezing lead to freeze-thaw cycles of moisture that undermine pavement sub-surfaces; extreme heat that cooks moisture below the…read more

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The Trump Infrastructure Plan and Potholes

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Hazardous streets and highways got plenty of attention in the 2016 election. Will the president-elect favor fixes – or exclusively build new roads? In the 2016 election both major party candidates shared at least one idea. They promised, to varying degrees and by different methods, to fix America’s crumbling infrastructure. Potholes – pavement crevices, not just the metaphors – were mentioned by both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton. Since his electoral victory, President-elect Trump has made some concrete moves toward fulfilling his infrastructure promises. This shouldn’t be surprising, given that…read more

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Public Works vs. Infrastructure

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What’s in a word? Does calling our pavement “infrastructure” instead of “public works” in anyway help fix our potholes? Or is it the other way around? In his recent book, “The Road Taken: The History and Future of America’s Infrastructure,” Duke University engineering professor Henry Petroski discusses (among many things) common misconceptions about the sources of funds for road construction and maintenance. Where it comes to our nation’s roads, bridges and other components of the physical makeup of civilization, it isn’t always clear what level of government – city, state or federal…read more

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Adios Pavement, Hello Gravel?

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More than just a few municipalities are throwing in the towel on bad pavement. Replacing their potholes are gravel and dirt roads – which have their own issues. Two noteworthy American cities about 1400 miles apart are chewing up rutted, potholed pavement and replacing them with dirt and gravel. The reason this is happening boils down to money – or a lack thereof. But others argue it’s just a matter of poor long-term planning and bad short-term decisions. In a nice neighborhood of Omaha, Nebraska, where homes on large lots…read more

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Tollway Successes Hard to Ignore

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Are toll roads the future of good pavement? The lessons from Colorado’s E-470 might provide us a clue on how to provide pothole-free roadways. The first highway in the U.S. to use open road tolling – where drivers could skip human-staffed barriers and coin baskets, paying instead electronically – celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2016. It’s Colorado’s E-470 which links the eastern suburbs of Denver and which has successfully maintained its pay-back schedule to bondholders while becoming a preferred, well-maintained roadway. Further evidence of the E-470 success story is how other…read more

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