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Harsh West Jordan Winter Causees Many Potholes

Jan 28, 2016 01:48PM ● Published by Bryan Scott

By Taylor Stevens | taylors@mycityjournals.com

West Jordan - Salt Lake City has one of the worst freeze-thaw cycles in the United States—meaning more potholes and higher costs as cities scramble to fill the holes to improve public safety. 

The City of West Jordan is no exception. West Jordan’s department of public works fills approximately 1,400 potholes each year, according to Tim Peters, public services manager. 

Potholes occur due to Utah’s seasonal freeze-thaw cycle, which causes water to seep into cracks, loosening the asphalt on the roads. The water then freezes at night, turning to ice and creating more cracks. As temperatures rise, the ice melts and the sizes of the cracks increase. 

“As the pavement section weakens, it does not support the vehicle load from above and the pavement and sub-surface deteriorate,” according to documents from the city’s public works department. “When the asphalt and the sub-surface weaken, the asphalt breaks in pieces and potholes appear.” 

Potholes can occur even during the warmer months, but because of Utah’s freeze-thaw cycle, which is one of the worst in the continental United States, according to the public works department. The heaviest potholes occur in winter and spring, Peters said. 

This is because “the more it freezes and thaws the more the water can seep into cracks and expand during freezing, causing the road to move and actually pop out of its original shape,” according to public works documents.

With over 855 lane miles, the public works department has had its hands full trying to fill the potholes in West Jordan roads this winter—an important job, since potholes can cause damage to vehicles and even lead to car accidents. From 2009 to 2014, half of all car owners across the United States experienced damage to their cars due to potholes, according to data reported by the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America.

Not all potholes are due to the freeze-thaw cycle, although it certainly adds to the pothole problem, and potholes can occur even in warm climates and in Utah summers. 

Therefore, “the effort and resources to combat the issue vary almost as much as our weather,” Peters said. 

However, when temperatures rise above freezing, Peters said he generally plans on sending out two crews consisting of two to three employees to patch potholes two to three days a week.

“When those crews do go out, they generally place 1.5 to 2 tons of patch material per day,” Peters said. “Unfortunately, during this time of year [wet weather, cold temps] the patch is temporary and will need to be made permanent with hot mix asphalt later in the spring when conditions permit.” 

The road maintenance doesn’t come cheap for the city. The cold patch asphalt costs about $125 per ton and hot mix asphalt costs $48 per ton, according to Peters. However, Peters said the city is at an advantage because its supply of asphalt comes from an asphalt plant located in West Jordan.  

Residents who are concerned about road conditions can report potholes located in West Jordan City at (801) 569-5700, and the public works department will create a work order.

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