An Introduction: The Life of a Pothole

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As motorists, the pothole is one of the most notorious foes we encounter.  Fabricated from nothing and created by no one, the elusive pothole manifests itself with a certain subtlety wherever it pleases and wreaks havoc indiscriminately on those unfortunate enough to cross its path.  Like a lion stalking in tall grass, the pothole waits, with unsurpassed patience, for an unsuspecting prey to fall into its trap.  Whether or not a victim is able to walk away from such an incident is very much in the stature of the pot hole; the bigger they are, the harder they fall.  While many potholes merely jostle their victims, often eliciting a bout of profanity and unnecessary stress, a Goliath pothole may render a motorist’s vessel completely incapacitated.  To say the least, the pothole is a vehicle’s arch enemy, but for some reason, seems to remain underestimated, overlooked, and commonly accepted as a necessary hazard associated with any commute.  To comprise a solution we must first understand our nemesis, so today we will explore the life of a pothole.

After continuous wear, the cracks begin to emerge to the surface, and now the weather begins to take its toll.

A pothole, like a living creature, begins at conception, and continues to grow until its death.  While a pothole has no parents, it is most often born from a combination of wear and weather.  Day in and day out, roads have the burden of supporting the weight of thousands upon thousands of cars.  This constant force can eventually fracture the road; most often this initially occurs below surface level.  After continuous wear, the cracks begin to emerge to the surface, and now the weather begins to take its toll.  Moisture seeps into these defects and expands and contracts at the whim of temperature.  This, combined with erosion, aggravates the road surface further.

As these cracks continue to develop, in both size and quantity, the pothole grows closer to its maturity.  As more and more breaks form near each other, they begin to intertwine and form a network of cracks.  No longer independent of one another, these networks can collectively pool moisture, expediting the degradation of the road’s surface.  The segments of the road isolated by these faults no longer maintain the same structural integrity as the once solid surface; these islands are no longer reinforced by the masses surrounding it.

All this time, the roads are still being constantly subjected to the forces of wear and weather, and, sooner or later, it simply can’t take it anymore.  Pieces of the now depreciated road surface can break away from vehicles dislodging them.  Even though a single segment may be small and may not seem like much of a loss initially, it’s only down hill from there.  The missing segment only makes the surrounding imperfections more vulnerable to following a similar fate; water and moisture now have a notably larger reservoir for pooling; the downward force of a vehicle over the missing piece is also no longer evenly distributed, exerting even more force on the pieces surrounding it.  Eventually more and more segments of the cracked road follow suit.  Finally, we are left with a full blown pothole.

The problem doesn’t stop there though, in fact, it’s only getting worse.  The problem of a growing reservoir increases exponentially, and the uneven force of tires still has a deteriorating effect.  Combine these constant variables with a weaker under surface and watch the pothole grow… and grow… and grow… until something is done about it.  Potholes can be repaired, but, to commuters’ dismay, mending potholes usually doesn’t become a priority until serious damage is a real, imminent possibility.  Proactivity can go a long way, so why wait?.. You never know when it will be your vehicle taken out of commission by the rogue pothole.

Sources:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pothole

http://www.westvalley.edu/att/Pavement%20Management/pm_01.htm