Game of Cones
2:15 pm
Mon January 20, 2014

Brace Yourselves, Potholes Are Coming

Potholes in New York City. This winter's multiple frost/thaw cycles are expected to contribute to a high volume of potholes in the spring.
Potholes in New York City. This winter's multiple frost/thaw cycles are expected to contribute to a high volume of potholes in the spring.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

As cold weather returns to Connecticut, a slew of potholes are expected to appear around the state. According to Jim Mahoney from the Connecticut Transportation Institute, "This is about as perfect as a setup as you can get for potholes, and unfortunately, every road is susceptible to them."

Here's the science behind it. "While the ground is frozen, you really don't have any potholes that can form, because everything is nice and hard and tight and well supported," Mahoney said. But then, the ground starts to thaw from the top down. "What ends up happening is you end up with the frozen layer retreating deeper into the ground," he said. On top of that, a layer of melted ice forms, setting up shop between the deeper frozen soil and the surface covered by road.

"The soil itself is saturated and at that point it can't support nearly the same amount of weight that it could during the summer or fall -- or whenever -- when it's actually drained," Mahoney said. "That's when you get the most amount of potholes." Connecticut already went through this frost/thaw cycle once. As temperatures begin to plummet again, Mahoney said it looks like Connecticut is setting up for almost two potholes cycles in one season.

That means a lot of road work. Mahoney said crews will continue to do cold patching for the next few weeks, until temperatures get high enough to allow for permanent road fixes in the spring.