If you’re new to the area, you might well think the majority of the drivers here are drunk as they make sudden swerving motions. Anyone paying attention, however, may well have noticed the abundance of potholes. They’re not just on side streets either even the highways are covered with them. There are even a few complaints going around online of popping tires on them.
In mid-January, Dawson Road Maintenance said they’d be out fixing potholes in the area. To their credit, anyone who’s been out and about regularly will have run into them working on fixing them. The problem is that within very little time of fixing the pothole it seems to be as bad as before.
“We know that there are some serious issues with the potholes around town. We have been consistently trying a variety of products but nothing seems to be holding,” said David Rhodes, quality manager of Service Area 16 at the time. This doesn’t appear to have changed since mid-January.
Measuring whether potholes are worse than usual or not is hard to say. In the past, heavily loaded (logging) trucks have often been given part of the blame, but with two local mills closed, you’d think our roads, if anything, would be a lot better this year.
Drivers may be inclined to blame Dawson for some new methods.
Rhodes noted is that they’re “pre-wetting the salt.” However, a 2018 Wisconsin study notes, “there is no significant difference between solid salt and liquid salt brine” in spalling. In other words, pre-wetting is unlikely to be a culprit.
Rhodes also said at the time that they were “looking at using a calcium chloride product.”
A 2018 study in Wisconsin notes that “several lab studies have shown that CaCl2 [calcium chloride], and MgCl2 [magnesium chloride] cause more damage to concrete than NaCl [sodium chloride],” further noting that a “pooled fund study TPF-5(042) conducted a series of laboratory tests and found that magnesium chloride (MgCl2) and calcium chloride (CaCl2) chemically interact with hardened Portland cement paste in concrete resulting in expansive cracking, increased permeability, and a significant loss in compressive strength.” Furthermore, tests showed that samples saturated with solutions stronger than approximately 15 per cent cracked and were damaged at room temperature without freezing and thawing.
However, the study still recommended that “blended products can combine benefits of various chemicals, such as the low cost of rock salt with the low freezing point of calcium chloride.”
With such studies still recommending their use, it’s not immediately clear you can put much fault there either.
Finally, it’s been a pretty mild winter. This may well mean we’ve seen more freezing and thawing than usual but that’s not really something easily controlled.
Regardless of what’s causing our potholes, with drivers serving and potential damage to tires, it’s really only a matter of time before they result in some sort of serious injury.