Pothole Problem: Worst Season Yet For Minn.?

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Lessening the pain of Minnesota’s pothole season costs money, and given the state’s shrinking resources, this year could be the worst yet for potholes.

This year’s particularly rough pothole season can be attributed to more groundwater below and around the roads, Minnesota Public Radio reports. This means that when the snow melts during the day, it seeps into the sub grade and freezes at night — causing even more cracks than before.

With that kind of science at work on the state’s already aging road system, drivers should prepare for a bumpy ride.

A number of possible solutions have been offered to alleviate the problem, but each comes with a list of pros and cons — and each has a price tag.

Some say the ticket is to come up with a better asphalt formula. But that takes research, and research costs money.

Filling the holes with asphalt, as pothole crews are out doing now, is only a temporary solution. The cracks reappear each spring — a result of the freeze, thaw and continuous barrage of traffic on the roads.

A long-term fix would be to build better roads, University of Minnesota civil engineering professor David Levinson said.

“We haven’t invented anything that will eliminate potholes, but we can certainly reduce their number if we build roads better,” he said.

But that’s unlikely to happen, Levinson said, as it would cost nearly 25 percent more to build stronger county highways.

Some people have suggested raising roadway taxes, especially for heavy truck owners whose rigs do more damage than small cars.

“An eighteen-wheeler can do 1,600 times as much damage to (the) road as a single passenger car would do over the same stretch,” Levinson said.

Larger vehicles could also be affixed with more tires or axles to even out the weight, although that would be expensive and would use more energy due to the added friction.

If snowplows raised their blades an inch or so, it would prevent them from damaging the pavement as they rumble through. That could bring complaints from drivers, however, who tend to prefer snow-free roadways that allow them to drive fast.

A number of road experts, including civil engineer Dave Sonnenberg, told MPR that the state is billions of dollars behind when it comes to road maintenance. If the state had kept up the pace, the pothole season wouldn’t be so bad.

“We’ve done a very thorough job of neglecting our pavement for the last 25 years,” Sonnenberg said.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • jon

    I’m weaving all over the place on my way to work lately. Not fun.

    • Fred

      Stay between the lines or you might get a field sobriety test. lol

  • dookie

    Why do we invest money on a light rail no one uses when the roads are garbage and were stuck in traffic.

    • Don_J

      Maybe YOU don’t use the light-rail, but it always looks packed to me when I see it.

    • Richard in Minneapolis

      I use light rail!!! Used it last week to get from Uptown to the Airport. (With luggage)

  • Swamp Fox

    Outside of the usual post winter wheel alignment check after pothole season gets cleared up, this year the horrendous road pot holes will cost me two ball joints and tie bars along with an anti-sway bar! This is my worst post winter road season in Minnesota and the worst I’ve seen in the 40 years I lived here!

    Folks, it’s going to get worse if the Legislature doesn’t balanced the state budget and doesn’t reform the tax system. You can’t have good roads without incoming tax revenues and Legislative political chicanery.

    So, be prepared for the roads to get worse and your vehicle getting suspension &/or tire repairs! Don’t you love Minnesota?

  • Don_J

    I live in Ramsey (Anoka County)… to get to 694 or 35E & W we have to use HWY 10… 10 looks and feels like the United States Air Forces uses it as a bombing range.

    • BB

      Agreed, I was on Hwy. 10 this weekend, it’s trash.

    • Richard in Minneapolis

      I think you’ve hit upon something. If the USAF WERE to use it as a bombing range they would be obligated to fix it up afterwards. Don, you’re brilliant!

  • ObviousLee

    All State, City and County workers without a shovel, will work for free until ALL the potholes are filled! Problem solved! Next Problem?

    • Don_J

      …oh god… here we goooooo! I would seriously doubt that potholes are the fault of the workers seeing as though they use these roads too.

  • Hole Dodger

    Nearly a half mile of roadway I use didn’t get any cold patch last year until late August. First big snowfall in Nov and the plows ripped them all out. Typical.

    Very dangerous driving – everyone is looking 10 feet in front of their car for the next hole that’s going to rip their car apart. No one paying attention to signs, lights or pedestrians.

    Maybe if we passed a law that MNDOT shared in the cost of our car repairs – they’d be a bit more serious about keeping the roads fixed up. Oh that’s right – we’re no longer collecting taxes in MN for fixing roads, paying cops or firefighters, since they’re just sucking us all dry.

    Note to GOP – people move out of state more quickly for livability reasons than job creation reasons. Look somewhere in the chapters of ECON 101.

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