Mercurial weather whips Fredericton into early pothole season

Mercurial weather whips Fredericton into early pothole season

Watch out. Pothole season has come early — and more potholes than usual are popping up in New Brunswick's capital city.

"We've got some areas that are obviously worse than others and we're dealing with those," said Mike Walker, manager of roadway operations for the City of Fredericton.

"It's part of the winter that we have to deal with this year."

Walker said some streets are more pothole-prone than others because of the amount and kind of traffic, the age of the infrastructure and the conditions underneath the pavement.

Westmorland Street in particular has been erupting in potholes, and Walker said crews have been busy fixing them, at least temporarily, and keeping the area well-signed. Walker said Regent Street and the Hanwell Road have also seen an increase in potholes.   

"There's no permanent fix that can be made in the wintertime," he said. "It's a temporary fix."

Gary Howard, vice-president of marketing and communications for CAA Atlantic, said potholes and heaves can affect the safety of a driver.

Howard said drivers should slow down for potholes or drive around them, stay alert to the holes in the road, as well as to other drivers and pedestrians, and be cautious of the speed of other drivers.

In Canada, bumps in the road are part of the driving experience.

"It is the nature of our country, given the fluctuations in temperature, as well as the use of heavy equipment used to keep our streets clear, Howard said. "And not just potholes, but heaves, soft shoulders."

Walker encouraged drivers to report potholes to the city so they can be fixed.

"If we fixed one and it's popped back out we will send a crew back out," he said. "We're not on every street every minute of the day."

Whenever the city sees potholes in the winter, Walker said, crews are sent out to repair them. But the repair might only last a few weeks, or even a few days. 

"It's very dependent on the conditions that exist right at that individual pothole," he said. "If there's water … or if the underlying conditions are such that they continue to fail underneath, than we're going to continue to see pothole issues."

New Brunswick's Department of Transportation says it regularly repairs potholes with an asphalt cold-patch product, specifically designed to fill potholes during the fall, winter and spring, when regular hot asphalt is not available.

"Cold-patch product is not as durable as hot asphalt ‎and is usually a temporary fix," said Jeff Hull of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure.

Hull said the province's priorities are based on several factors, including traffic volumes and the severity of potholes in a given area.  

"Newer-constructed roads are designed and built to modern standards that help reduce the occurrence of potholes," he said. "However, there is no guarantee a new highway would be pothole-free, since temperature swings, high traffic volumes, the presence of water and truck loads contribute to pothole occurrence."

Busy season for auto repair 

Potholes can damage a vehicle's tires and rims, alignment, balancing and under-carriage, including muffler.

Alfred Wilkins, branch manager with Wonder Auto & Tire in Fredericton, said the shop has seen a lot of tire damage this year, as well as broken springs.

Over the past two weeks, he's been getting up to five calls a day to check on vehicles. 

"There's a few [vehicles] coming in on the tow trucks," he said. "Three came in on the tow truck on Tuesday of this week."

The cost to repair tires and wheels can range from $200 to more than $600.

"Spring is always hard on the vehicles," he said. "You could do damage and not even know it."

Wilkins said that with fluctuating temperatures, potholes will get even worse throughout the spring. 

"The thaw really hasn't started yet and ... if it continues to go back and forth from cold to hot it's going to produce a lot more damage on the roads."