It’s that time of year again. The sun is shining, the birds are singing and the potholes are starting to show. What is it about this season that makes potholes so common, and how do we deal with the problem of perennial pothole patching? Let’s start from the ground up to get you the answers.
How Potholes Form
Our roads are built in layers – a base of earth and gravel, topped with asphalt – an excellent material for road surfaces. Not only is it recyclable, but it’s also durable and it repels moisture. And keeping moisture out is key when it comes to building good roads, especially on the “Wet Coast” of BC.
But like any building material, asphalt wears and cracks eventually start to form. The cracks allow water to get under the road surface and weaken the base of gravel and soil. Without a solid base, the asphalt becomes more vulnerable to cracking as vehicles drive over it. More cracking leads to more moisture, and the cycle continues. The frequent freezing and thawing we experience during the late winter and early spring turbo-charges that process. The ice splits the cracks wider, allowing more moisture to penetrate farther and creating more damage when it freezes next. Once the cycle starts, our roads can get ugly quickly unless the problem is fixed…
How We Fix Potholes
With over 47,000 kilometres of road to look after, you can bet we find a lot of potholes! So, how do we prioritize pothole repair? It’s kind of like a triage system for wounded roads.
Depending on the where the pothole is located, it may need to be filled within days or even hours. For example, a pothole that’s in the travel path of a main highway gets priority over those on the shoulder or on a low volume road. The size of the hole also plays a factor, with larger ones having priority over smaller ones.
The best time to fill potholes is when the weather is warm and dry. But when a pothole poses a safety issue, we often can’t wait for ideal weather. We fill the hole with a temporary fix during the winter season and plan on returning during the summer to make a permanent repair.
Unfortunately, because the patching material doesn’t bond well to the road surface in wet, cold conditions, it’s not uncommon to see a pothole needing repair again shortly after it was filled. In fact, we might make a number of temporary repairs to a pothole before the weather improves and a more permanent fix can be made. The colder and wetter the spring, the more often repairs are required.
Ministry staff and our maintenance contractors travel the roads regularly, looking for problems. We also value reports from the public as potholes can appear quickly, and the more eyes we have on the road, the faster we can find out about possible problems. If you see a pothole during your travels, please give our maintenance contractors a call and make sure they’re aware of it. There are 28 maintenance contractors throughout the province, and you can find the one for your area here.
Page 1 of 17 comments on “The Problem of Perennial Pothole Patching on BC Highways”
There are so big 3-4 potholes on the exit to Knight Street from Marine Drive… It is around the corner where it is about to merge in the Knight Street..Some months ago they were filled but now again the road is so bad.. Although, speed is slow on the curve to merge on the knight street otherwise it could be dangerous to somebody..
I hope you pay heed to my concern and start to resolve the problem. Thanks a lot for your services
Hello Rajwinder – thanks for connecting with us here. We ask that you share this concern directly with our maintenance operator in the area – Mainroad. Here’s a quick list of the ways you can reach out to them to let them know of your issue:
Service Area 6 – Lower Mainland (Surrey)
Mainroad Lower Mainland Contracting LP
All areas except Highway 17 (South Fraser Perimeter Road – Highway 17 between Tsawwassen and 176th Street)
YouTube: Mainroad Group
Nice pictures of open roads without concrete meridians. Thank you to the crews repairing the Malahat who replaced the concrete meridians with insufficient drainage holes spaced 15 ft apart with meridians including larger adequate drainage holes spaced about 25cm apart. This might not only reduce collisions by removing some of the flooded roads hydroplaning conditions, but also the causation of black ice conditions and extensive quantities of potholes and even sink holes created by overload of water on highways.
Hello Trish – thanks for connecting with us here. Work is still underway to fix the damage which occurred on the Malahat in November. We have shared your concerns about the barriers in place there with our staff in the area for their review.
The picture above is a prime example of why the patches fail. Instead of doing 1 repair for this whole area there are a number of smaller, usually poorly placed and finished patches that fail almost immediately. Do the job right the first time.
As explained in the blog, there are times when we can’t wait for ideal weather to patch some potholes.
This means we apply a temporary fix in winter/spring, then when the weather improves to the warmer and dryer conditions that are ideal for repairs, we make a permanent repair in the summer. (Patching material doesn’t bond well in wet, cold conditions). In spring, we might make a few temporary repairs to a pothole before the weather improves and a more permanent fix can be done. The colder and wetter the spring, the more often repairs are required.
How do I go about recouping my costs for repairs after striking a pothole in the Massey tunnel, cracked two rims and ruined two tires, almost had a horrific accident. My insurance has charged me with a collision and I had to pay my decuctible. These potholes have gone on for years yet there is NO signage warning of these potential disasters, not just a triangular sign but a large flashing sign when the potholes are prevalent. During rushhour when traffic is two way in either the
nb or sb lanes someone is going to be injured or die drying to avoid these potholes Feb 15th 2019 several vehicles damaged from potholes in the nb lanes at the north end of the tunnel. Mainroad cant perform miracles…fix the tunnel!
Hello Tim and thanks for your comment. We completely understand your frustration and encourage you to send your concern and claim information to our highway claims unit. Here is a link to more info: https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/transportation/driving-and-cycling/licensing-and-insurance/highway-claims
Highway 97 and Head of the Lake Road outside of Vernon BC
How long do we have to wait for the dangerous pot holes to be repaired. At present there are 75 potholes from Head of the Lake Entrance to Desert Cove Estates Entrance. There are over 300 home in this development and lots of the residents are older and have a harder time at seeing these potholes, especially when we have two blind corners to go around where there is continuous holes.
They were repaired once already this year but obviously what they did didn’t work, as they are all back there again. THANK YOU
Hi Holly. Patching crew has this scheduled to be completed by the end of the day today.
Ontario is looking into the way asphalt is compacted on the road to see if they can reduce cracking. Perhaps BC should do the same? http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/pothole-professor-pavement-asphalt-ottawa-carleton-1.4563986
Thanks for sharing this with us Brian. Our maintenance and rehabilitation group work closely with provincial partners in developing new technologies.
Would be nice if persistent and deep potholes were properly repaired before repaving. When the hot in place repaving was done east of Revelstoke some potholes didn’t even take a year to reappear.
Thanks for this Nick!
REF TUNNEL HIWY 99 HOW LONG DO WE HAVE TO WAIT FOR HOLES AT ENTRANCE TO BE REPAIRED. VERY BAD HOLE AT NORTH ENTRANCE HEADING SOUTH. HOLES ARE BEING REPAIRED ELSEWHERE WHY NOT THE TUNNEL, IT IS A DISGRACE. I HAVE ALREADY REPLACED MY TIRES AND ALIGNMENT AT SAME TIME. COME ON SOMEONE HAS DROPPED THE BALL. HOW MANY MORE TIRES SHOULD I PURCHASE BEFORE SOMEONE WAKES UP AND IMPLEMENTS CORECTIVE ACTION IMMEDIATELY.PLEASE NO EXCUSES
Thanks for connecting with us here. We have sent your comment forward to the local area office for follow up.
With good overnight weather recently, our maintenance contractor was able to complete some repaving of the George Massey Tunnel approaches, capturing the majority of the potholes. Work was done this past Sunday and Monday nights.