States and municipalities are trying to stay ahead of road repairs before cold and precipitation go to work on asphalt streets and highways.
It’s a race against time in West Virginia.
There, Huntington-based CBS affiliate 13 News reports that state highway crews are busy “milling and patching” streets where pavement potholes are a problem. “Crews are racing against the weather to do the most patching they can in the longest lasting way possible,” reports the television station. “Right now they still have access to what is called hot patch to better fill the holes. But once the temperature drops they’ll only have access to the less effective cold patch.”
That is partially true. While asphalt hot mix plants shut down in winter when the air temperatures drop below the requisite 40-45 degrees Fahrenheit, there are different types of cold patch that can be used. The cheaper version is used as temporary fill during the worst of winter, only to be repatched with hot mix come warmer weather. But, there is a different type of polymer-modified cold patch material that can make a permanent fix in cold, wet conditions.
That said, West Virginia is like many states that hit their own metaphorical potholes with a November report from an insurance industry website, QuoteWizard. “Pothole Damage Costs US Drivers $3 Billion a Year” was published in mid-November, listing states that likely have the worst potholes on their respective roads.
The QuoteWizard analysis was based on Google search statistics, finding where geographically the most people went online with pothole-related complaints and repairs. The top ten states, starting with the worst, are: Michigan, Indiana, Rhode Island, Washington state, Vermont, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, and New York.
Of note, the analysis would likely rank larger-population states higher, due to more people doing more searching. But this list does not strictly correlate with population rankings, which (in descending order) are California, Texas, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, etc., suggesting there are both maintenance and weather conditions that disfavor those in the top QuoteWizard list.
National statistics aside, the costs from potholes to individual motorists and passengers are high. According to the AAA, the average repair bill associated with pothole car damage is $306, and for 30% of those jarring car-meets-pavement events the bills run between $250 and $1000.
But it’s about more than vehicle damage. The death of 54-year-old female motorcyclist in Chicago, shortly after Thanksgiving, was attributed to a pothole.
Meanwhile, in Atlantic City, New Jersey, some of the streets made famous by the board game Monopoly – Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Avenue, in particular – are the subject of much debate and criticism for being in such bad disrepair. Part of the problem is timing, as a reconfiguration project that will incorporate lanes for bicycles and related streetscaping will not be completed until early 2024. In the interim, spot patching is being done.
So while it’s clear that each state and municipality approaches their road asphalt quality on a case-by-case basis, a few things are certain regardless of planning and budgets: potholes are expensive to motorists, and they create deadly hazards.