Warmer temps, early freeze-and-thaw cycle lead to potholes

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published February 22, 2017


ST. CLAIR SHORES — With temperatures swinging from the 20s to the high 40s and back again, one of Michigan’s most native species is popping up around the city — the pothole.

“They’re terrible,” said Lora Barber, of St. Clair Shores. 

In her opinion, side streets around the city are the worst spots for potholes this year.

“I’ve blown two tires there just this year,” she said of side streets crossing Martin Road west of Little Mack Avenue.

Sandra DeBonville, of Roseville, agreed. Her husband blew a tire on a pothole last year. They are trying to be more careful on the roads this year, but that brings its own dangers, she said.

“That can cause an accident, too,” she said of watching the road instead of other drivers. “It’s really bad and I don’t know what we can do about it.”

Local tire experts say they typically see more bent rims and blown out tires this time of year, but there’s not much drivers can do. And city officials say they’re just trying to keep up as more and more potholes develop.

“Unfortunately, it seems like our freeze-thaw season is starting earlier than normal this year with the warmer temperatures,” said St. Clair Shores Department of Public Works Director Bryan Babcock. “It’s tough to have the cold patch to stick in the potholes when you have the freeze-thaw, and especially the rain, to loosen it up.

“When you get the rainy season, with the freezing and the thawing, you could put it in one day and it could come out the next day,” he continued. “In the summer, that stuff seals up those holes and can stick.”

Although the department is “continuously out there,” residents are welcome to give DPW a call at (586) 445-5363, ext. 200, and report side streets with large potholes. Babcock said they keep track on a list and typically get out to cold-patch the problem areas every other day. 

“We are seeing some of the roads, unfortunately, like Jefferson for example ... when they pave the road and then they cut the pavement ... those joints also allow rain and moisture into them, and over the years as concrete gets older, that concrete can fail,” he said. 

He said that’s what’s happening on Jefferson, “right in line where all the tires drive.”

Jefferson Avenue, he said, is almost 20 years old and in need of maintenance. A joint repair project is being investigated to fix the problem.

“We do try to keep them filled in with cold patch, but hopefully this summer we’ll be able to do a more permanent repair,” Babcock said. 

For side streets that require cold-patch repair constantly, Babcock said that they could be put on the list to have complete concrete repair in the spring. The city typically reconstructs four or five streets each summer. 

Concrete patching is also performed throughout the city, “so that way we’re able to spread the dollars.”