Photo Credit: Martin Kay / Facebook

Pothole Pandemic

Recent crazy whether causes more than just headaches

Storms and changing temperatures have wreaked havoc on Island roads

The damage from the crazy weather lately goes beyond floods and tides. If you feel you’ve been dodging more potholes than normal on Vancouver Island highways and city streets, you’re not alone.

Engineers and road maintenance companies blame December’s unseasonably cold weather, freeze-thaw conditions, and heavy rain for the rough driving conditions.

Highway 19, the main north-south thoroughfare linking Nanaimo to Port Hardy, has been hit particularly hard.

Mainroad Mid Island Contracting is the company that has the Ministry of Transportation contract to maintain highways on Central Vancouver Island. Teagan Burton, operations manager with Mainroad, says it has been hard to keep up with potholes.

Though filling potholes is a regular part of highway maintenance, Burton says there have been more calls from pothole-anxious drivers than usual. Burton told PQB News “that crews have been working feverishly to repair potholes as they become aware of them, sometimes by repairing the same potholes multiples times a day.”

 Here’s the down-low on pothole formation.

Hwy 19 from Parksville to Lantzville
Credit: Times Colonist

The freeze-thaw weathering cycle is typical in cold places. When it rains, water seeps into cracks in the road. As temperatures drop below freezing, ice forms. The ice expands and creates cracks in roads. As temperatures rise, the ice melts, and water fills the now larger cracks. Then when the water freezes again, expansion causes further damage. Finally, under the constant pressure of highway traffic, the cracks crumble and form a pothole. Hit repeat on this cycle, and a road can soon look like a bombed-out runway in no time.

The section of Highway 19 between Lantzville and Parksville is especially bad. Parksville resident Devon Matheson told Black Press that he hit a 20 centimetre-deep pothole driving north on January 2nd. He said it caused $2,000 worth of damage to his vehicle and that there were no warning signs for drivers.

On January 11th, a tow truck driver helping one of several drivers north of Lantzville with pothole-damaged vehicles was struck by a passing Dodge Caravan in a hit and run. The tow truck driver is recovering from serious injuries. The RCMP says the van’s driver was later arrested and is being charged with impaired driving.

Richard Taekema of OK Tire in Parksville said they have had hundreds of people come in to deal with damage caused by those potholes in the last month.

Mainroad says it’s trying to keep up with temporary patching but expects pothole conditions to continue until drier weather allows paving crews to fix the damaged roads.

The sooner potholes are identified, the faster they can get repaired. So drivers noticing a pothole can report it using the online ‘Report a Problem’ tool.

If your car is damaged after hitting a pothole, you can launch a claim for highway-related damage online.

A media relations spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation told PQB News that all potential liability claims are assessed on a per-claim basis.