While the arrival of warmer weather is usually cause for celebration here in the Upper Peninsula, the spring thaw can uncover a few things less desirable than sidewalks and green grass – namely, potholes.
Potholes form when water freezes beneath the road surface. The expansion of the freezing water raises the surface, and when the ground rebounds from higher temperatures, a gap forms. Driving over these gaps can cause the pavement to crack and fall, thus forming the characteristic hole that jars both car and driver. As the potholes start to appear, the race to fix them begins.
“In the spring, there’s at one, if not two, crews out on US–41,” said Highway Maintenance Specialist David Ackley. “Most of us know where the big ones are, and then you get a few that pop up here and there. We can hit them all within one shift and try to save the public some tires.”
Road crews like those from the Marquette County Road Commission work day in and day out to stave off the post–winter pothole rampage. Ackley’s crew travels US–41 between Ishpeming and Harvey, patching the roads as they go.
“(You) clean the pothole out, make sure it’s dry as possible, put your patch in, leave it at about an inch high, roll it with the truck tires and get compaction, and hope it sticks,” said Ackley.
Patches don’t always stick. Salt, sand, and moisture can all undo a crew’s hard work. Late season snowfall also results in damage, as plows will inadvertently pull up the fresh patches when clearing roads. With crews shoveling cold patch material onto the roads daily, drivers should always be cautious to help keep workers safe.
“We got an arrow board on the guard truck to protect the guys that are out doing the shoveling in the potholes, and the arrow board puts you over into the passing lane. Just slow down, merge over, as soon as you see it, and go slowly around us, and carry on,” Ackley added.