Potholes—An Expensive and Recurring Problem for Cities

Potholes are a huge problem all over North America, but nowhere are the detrimental effects more evident than in Canada's capital, Ottawa. The city has experienced 42 freeze-thaw cycles since November and has performed nearly 30,000 pothole repairs since winter started.

How Potholes Form: Explaining the Freeze-Thaw Cycle

During the freeze-thaw cycle, water seeps into the pavement, freezes, and expands. Then, once the ice thaws, the pavement contracts and cracks. Combined with high volumes of traffic, repeated freezing and thawing weakens pavement, causing massive craters on road surfaces.

What Exactly Are Potholes?

Potholes: A Huge Expense for Municipal Governments

Potholes may not seem like a major threat to infrastructure, but they can run cities hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair costs every year. And as statistics show, these costs are increasing.

Ottawa's draft budget for 2018 makes the $400,000 in extra spending for pothole repairs a permanent expenditure while adding another $200,000.

And yet, this number doesn't even come close to the amount needed to cover all of the damage produced this past winter. It also doesn't take into account claims made against the city for pothole-related damage to vehicles.

What Kind of Damage Can Potholes Do to Your Vehicle?

Large Pothole in Concrete Road
Repeated freeze-thaw cycles result in weakened pavement and, ultimately, potholes.

Ottawa drivers face increasingly deteriorated conditions of city streets each and every spring. In addition to being annoying and inconvenient, potholes formed by recurring freeze-thaw cycles can also cause serious damage to vehicles, including:

  • Flat tires
  • Dented or cracked wheels
  • Damaged steering, suspension, and/or wheel alignment

According to provincial government standards, the City of Ottawa is required to fix a pothole anywhere between 4 and 30 days after becoming aware of the problem. The amount of time it takes the city to repair the problem also depends on the size of the pothole and whether it is on a paved or an unpaved road.

There Must Be a Solution…

You'd think that a problem as predictable, costly, and destructive as potholes would have a solution. And although researchers all over the world are working hard to develop more durable, pothole-proof materials, we should not forget about improving concrete testing technologies and pavement preservation techniques to ensure long-lasting quality of our concrete roads.