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‘It wreaks havoc on our asphalt’: Fluctuating temperatures creates pothole problem in Saint John

A challenging winter for the Maritimes that has brought massive fluctuations in temperature has been hard on roads in Saint John.

Deputy Commissioner of Transportation Jeff Hussey says the city is experiencing a greater number of pothole than usual.

“Whenever you have weather conditions like we’ve had this past winter or this current winter I guess, with these huge temperature fluctuations and it creates a freeze thaw cycle within the ground, it wreaks havoc on our asphalt,” he said.

“As ice and snow melts, it gets into the cracks and crevices in the asphalt and then as it refreezes again. It really pops that asphalt and destroys it, thus creating a pothole.”

While potholes are a winter time priority for the city, other seasonal operations take precedence.

“It’s one of our priorities, pothole patching. But our main priority during this season is snow and ice control so they’re competing priorities obviously,” he said.

“We’ve got crews out trying to maintain the streets for safe passage of ice and snow and meanwhile, we got potholes popping up all over the place. So when the opportunities present themselves, we got to get our crews out there in full force patch those holes as fast as possible.”

Further complicating winter road maintenance is the type of material available. While the city is able to cook up batches of hot mix asphalt in a pinch, they mostly rely on cold mix asphalt throughout the winter, which acts more as a fill than a patch.

“It never truly ever solidifies,” Hussey said of the cold mix.

“So we put it in the potholes and we compact it in and stuff but the chances of it staying in for any sort of longevity is slim. So we’re repeatedly going back to these spots over and over again.”

As winter conditions are hard on the roads, so the roads are hard on vehicles. The owner of a local tire shop says it’s been an above-average year for pothole-related maintenance.

“I’d have to say that this year, no question, we’ve seen a higher incidence of maintenance related to roads,” Paul Pollari said.

His advice for those looking to mitigate the potential for damage is simple: avoid rough stretches of road and take it slow.

“The speed is a big factor. Keep your speed down,” Pollari said.

“If you run into a rough stretch of road and you’re driving too aggressively, no question there is a higher probability of having damage to your vehicle.”

The city will under go it’s yearly “pothole blitz” this spring, but Hussey says the exact timing depends on when temperatures begin to warm and asphalt plants open for the spring.

For now, any motorists running into dangerous potholes are encouraged to contact the city.

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