There is good news for pothole plagued areas. A simple process that is relatively quick and inexpensive can actually eliminate potholes.
Potholes come in many shapes and sizes and are found just about everywhere warm areas, colder climates, heavily trafficked streets and even rarely traveled roads. In addition to the annoyance of a bumpy ride, potholes are also a major contributor to traffic accidents and expensive automobile repair costs. It is estimated that potholes are a factor in over 100,000 accidents every year and also contribute to billions of dollars in automobile damage.
The problem is, in most areas, potholes don’t seem to be going away. Despite hundreds of millions of dollars and countless man-hours being devoted each year to patching potholes, the pothole problem appears to be getting worse.
So what causes potholes in the first place? Simply stated it’s insufficient or failing road base combined with an increase of heavy truck traffic on our roads. Not pickup trucks, but big heavy trucks like garbage trucks and semi trucks. High traffic, particularly high truck traffic, passing over areas with insufficient or failing base causes the pavement to flex excessively and the road surface to crack, which forms the beginnings of a pothole.
What about cars? Over time cars can and do contribute to the pothole problem, but the pressure exerted by a single semi truck can be the equivalent of up to 40,000 cars. That’s right one semi truck can cause the wear and tear of up to 40,000 cars.
As trucks continue to drive over road surfaces with insufficient road base, cracks become larger and spread into what is called alligator cracking, because it looks much like the back of an alligator. As these cracked sections continue to flex under load they eventually become dislodged forming a new pothole. Water seeping through cracks speeds this erosion; and in colder climates, this water freezes and expands, accelerating pothole creation and expansion.
Then begins the seemingly never-ending cycle of pothole patching and repairs. Most methods start by cleaning out the pothole and then filling it with a patch. Many use high quality patching materials applied with sophisticated machines. While this type of patching helps for a while, it’s generally just a matter of time before the pothole reappears, often becoming even worse. This filling and re-filling can eventually make a road look like a patchwork quilt, so a common next step is to cover the entire road with a new layer of asphalt, called an overlay. Even then it’s still just a matter of time before potholes and alligator cracking are likely to reappear in a seemingly endless cycle.
The problem, as stated earlier, is still lurking below the road surface in failing or insufficient base. However most repair methods merely treat the surface without ever addressing the real problem of failed or insufficient base materials. What’s the solution?
You probably have already guessed it; you solve the base problem. By solving the base problem you eliminate the source of the pothole, thus eliminating potholes. The good news is solving base problems can be done quickly and relatively inexpensively with a simple process called Full-Depth Reclamation or FDR for short.
Full-Depth Reclamation is simply the process of pulverizing an asphalt or chip seal surface along with a pre-determined portion of the base with a road reclaimer. This reclaimed material is uniformly blended into the base providing additional structure and stability. If even greater stability is needed a variety of additives such as additional gravel, road base, cement or even liquid additives can be easily blended using the same process. Best of all, by reusing materials in place you eliminate most or even all of the very costly trucking and material costs generally associated with tearing out old roads and bringing in new materials associated with complete road rehabilitation.
There’s also nothing greener for the environment or your wallet because reusing existing materials in place is a very cost effective method of recycling. Projects that would normally take a week or longer can now be completed in as little as one day using recycled materials in place. This significantly reduces the amount of fuel consumed and exhaust emitted from all of the equipment and trucking involved. Better yet, cost savings are just as impressive making it also far and away greener for all of our wallets.
There are a wide range of machine options for doing Full-Depth Reclamation. Big self-contained reclaimers are available from a variety of manufacturers for use on large, heavy highway projects. Self-powered attachments for loaders and backhoes are a more economical option for small to mid-sized projects. Hydraulically powered units for skid steers are also available from a wide range of manufactures for very small projects.
Regardless of which machine a road department chooses to use, the end result of an FDR repair is smoother, more durable and cost effective roads, a greener environment and fewer trips to the auto repair shop for all of us.