Heavy snow, fluctuating temps cause potholes up and down Northern Utah

Friday , February 17, 2017 - 5:30 AM

MITCH SHAW, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Lots of snow, more than a little rain and wildly fluctuating temperatures have left roads across Northern Utah full of holes. 

Yes, it’s been a bad year for potholes.

Utah Department of Transportation spokesman Vic Saunders said the Region One area of the state — which includes Weber, Davis, Morgan, Box Elder, Cache and Rich counties — was particularly hit hard by snow this winter, causing trouble spots on roads up and down the region.

“This winter is really more in-line with what we historically expect here in Utah,” he said. “We’re getting the types of snow storms that Utah is famous for. But it’s definitely the most snow we’ve had in quite a few years.”

And with major snow storms, Saunders said, potholes are inevitable, especially on older pavements.

“Potholes are really a fact of life given the climate we live in,” he said.

Add in rain, 50 degree swings in temperature and 2017 has had textbook conditions for potholes. 

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Saunders said during a normal winter, there are typically 40 to 45 “freeze-thaw” cycles, where temperatures fall below freezing, then rise back above that mark. This year’s winter has been especially erratic with temperature fluctuations. 

Plowing, along with the salt and brine UDOT uses to clear the roads during storms, can also contribute to pothole formation, Saunders said.

Layton Mayor Bob Stevenson, who said his car has been “eaten alive” more than once this year by potholes, attributes the holes in his city to the shifting temperature phenomenon.

“We’d have the heavy snow, then the rain, moisture getting under the pavement and then the bitter cold followed by warmer weather,” Stevens said. “Instead of multiple days of like 22 degrees, we’d get the zero to five degree stuff, then the warm weather we’ve seen lately.”

Stevenson and Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell said their cities have been repairing roads, mostly in a short-term manner, where they can. More permanent fixes will require more consistent warm weather.

“As soon as the weather warms up and the asphalt plants start going, we’re basically going to have all hands on deck fixing potholes,” Caldwell said. “I think pretty much everybody in Northern Utah has seen an increase this winter.”

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Saunders said two stretches of road have been particularly hard hit with potholes: Interstate 15 in Box Elder County and Wall Avenue in Ogden.

Each of those roads are scheduled for rehabilitation projects later this year, but the state had to preemptively work on them to mitigate pothole damage. UDOT ground down the roadway surface on I-15 between Corrine and Honeyville and on Wednesday, patched potholes along Wall.

“Our crews are actively repairing pavement damage and patching potholes,” Saunders said. “Following every storm, our maintenance folks stay busy. They are actively looking for and repairing potholes.”

Stevenson and Caldwell said they’ll likely draw from Proposition 1 funding to help fix potholes. Passed by voters in November 2015, Prop 1 provides counties yearly money for road projects, sidewalks, bike and pedestrian paths, and increased mass transit service. 

The local-option tax passed in both Weber and Davis counties, but failed in Morgan and Box Elder counties.

Saunders said the public can alert UDOT of potholes and other road damage by using the state’s “Click 'n Fix” app, available free at Apple and Android app stores.

You can reach reporter Mitch Shaw at mishaw@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @mitchshaw23 or like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/mitchshaw.standardexaminer/.

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