City of Red Deer Public Works employees Devon Desrosiers works a tamper over a repaired pothole as Jose Diz looks on. A truck with a supply of preheated asphalt has made the job of repairing potholes better. (Advocate file photo by Jeff Stokoe)

Prevention puts pothole proliferation in Red Deer on ice

Freeze-thaw cycles have taken toll on roads

There are more than a few Red Deer drivers around who remember the city’s Great Pothole War about five years ago.

Large numbers of big, gaping near-caverns in the pavement made for a rough ride on city streets. Today, Public Works manager Greg Sikora recalls those potholes as “terrible.”

Potholes are a hallmark of late winter, early spring driving, thanks largely to the freeze-thaw cycles that occur on a regular basis in Red Deer. This is usually the result of the region catching the warm edges of southern Alberta chinooks. Potholes form when water gets into the road surface and then freezes.

Today, thanks to the city’s different approach to road maintenance, despite having just seen a significant freeze-thaw cycle last month, drivers haven’t had to navigate through near as many potholes as in the past.

“Knock on wood,” said Sikora.

Last month, the city repaired 100 potholes. That’s five to 10 times fewer potholes than several years ago that the city would have seen after a freeze-thaw cycle. In all of 2015, Public Works repaired a total of 17,987 potholes.

Sikora said that the city has undertaken a strong preventative maintenance program on it’s roads. Crack filling. spray patching, pothole repair and more crown paving to prevent water getting into the road surface are all helping.

“We’re seeing now some of the fruits of that investment. Our roads are actually in pretty good shape. We’re seeing less pothole development during these freeze-thaw cycles … That’s the positive because the investment of the preventative road maintenance pays the dividends of less surface distresses.”

“It doesn’t mean that we can take our foot off the gas. It just means we are seeing now less pothole development during those freeze-thaw cycles. It’s truly paying dividends to our community.”

One of the things the city has done the last few years is to use a a special hot box that keeps asphalt warn when doing cold weather repairs rather than just filling them with gravel or cold mix.

When the city gets a call about a pothole, they try to have them repaired within two days, Sikora said.

“We ask the public to use our web page and our Report A Problem feature which gets Public Works connected very quickly.”

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