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PQB roads: Excess moisture, ‘freeze-thaw’ conditions result in series of highway potholes

Crews work continually to deal with situation in surrounding region
Residents have been sharing photos of highway potholes via social media. (Devon Matheson/Facebook photo)

With the recent snow and freezing temperatures, followed by significant rainfall, a series of potholes have popped up along the stretch of highway between Lantzville and Parksville.

Operations manager with Mainroad Mid Island Contracting, Teagan Burton, said although she couldn’t put an exact figure to it, they have received “quite a few” calls regarding potholes along Highway 19.

Mainroad Mid Island Contracting is responsible for servicing the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure’s 10-year contract for highway maintenance covering Central Vancouver Island between Chemainus and Bowser.

“It is more than usual during the winter season, but not unusual for road maintenance in general,” said Burton.

She said the influx of holes along that stretch of highway has to do with the excess moisture and freeze-thaw.

READ MORE: Vancouver Island drivers brave minefield of potholes as bureaucrats play pass-the-buck

“We had quite a bit of moisture at the end of November/beginning of December. And then we went through that cold snap around Christmas time. That holds a lot of moisture in, and then the freeze-thaw works the temporary patches out,” she said.

Freeze-thaw weathering is the erosion that occurs in cold areas where ice forms. As the ice expands, it pushes cracks in asphalt apart, making them larger. When temperatures rise, the ice melts and water fills the cracks back in. When the water then freezes again, the expansion causes further cracks, repeating the cycle until, under the continuous pressure of highway traffic, the cracks crumble and a pothole is formed.

Burton said with the moisture, they’re only able to patch holes up to twice in a 12-hour shift, and that they’ve been continually working between Lantzville and Parksville.

Paving the road during weather like this is not a viable solution, she said, as much drier conditions are required. Otherwise, the paving will only stick as well as the temporary patching they’ve used for the interim. She said they hope to be able to pave well before the spring, but actually doing so remains weather-dependent.

The time involved in filling in a hole from when it’s first reported to when crews are sent out to physically do repairs is also weather-dependent.

“We typically would like to jump on them as soon as we can,” Burton said, adding that they aim to have repairs done within 24 hours.

The 24-hour Mainroad call centre for central Vancouver Island is 1-877-215-6006 to report needed repairs.

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Mandy Moraes

About the Author: Mandy Moraes

I joined Black Press Media in 2020 as a multimedia reporter for the Parksville Qualicum Beach News, and transferred to the News Bulletin in 2022
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