Harsh winter takes toll on roadways

The unusually long and cold winter has left more than a trail of snow days in its wake; it also left gaping potholes in many of the roads on the east coast. It’s especially noticeable in the northern Virginia area, where we aren’t as used to some of the side effects of a rough winter. The Washington Post, for example, has estimated that 62 percent of the roadways in and around Washington are currently in need of repair.

After the snow melted, reports surfaced of a record number of potholes across the Washington region, nuisances for drivers and bicyclists alike. Instances of accidents and damage caused by potholes often impacted already-slow traffic, turning it to a virtual standstill.

Flat tires, broken wheel rims and busted bumpers are just some examples of damages induced by potholes. Arlington’s budget for winter related damages and snow control was $1.1 million, but the county has spent over $2 million since March, reported American University Radio

“Potholes are a danger for cars and drivers, both in terms of expenses and in road safety. I know that it’s hard to swerve around potholes that are hard to see at the risk of scratching your car,” senior Rahul Reddy said.

A major pothole on the Capital Beltway near McLean in mid-February created a traffic build-up when about a dozen vehicles pulled over due to flat tires. Three different road service trucks were working within a one-mile span of the road, helping drivers out with their car issues in an attempt to keep traffic moving.

Meanwhile, the roads around Marshall are spotted with potholes as well, with a few on the edges of Idylwood Road that make the sharp turns even more hazardous. The shoulder lanes on Leesburg Pike and Gallows Road have debris from the crumbling asphalt from current potholes and leftovers from filled potholes.

“When I drive to school it’s a huge hassle to have to navigate the cracks and holes in the road,” sophomore Caylin Elkins said. “My parents have also had issues with [potholes] in my neighborhood.”

Rainfall and snowfall have both increased about five inches above normal since January. The rising and falling temperature freezes and thaws the excess water, in turn cracking and collapsing sections of roads.

The large amount of salt, and the chemicals in the treatment mix put on the roads before and after snowfalls, increase the risk of potholes on already-fragile roads. The salt penetrates the layers of concrete, and the asphalt is stripped because it is extremely acidic.

The potholes filled during the winter are weaker and only a temporary fix, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, while permanent repairs require warm weather in the spring. Due to this year’s abnormally long winter, the temporarily-filled potholes collapse over time and create worse situations for maintenance crews to deal with.