The World of Cracks and Potholes

Our pavements have never seen a worse state of repair than they do today. Many reasons are cited for this. An estimated 650 potholes are created every minute on North American roads and highways, which is 341,640,000 per calendar year. The annual cost to fix these holes would be $51,264,000,000. Additionally, there are approximately 88,070,400,000 feet (or more) of cracks on North American streets and highways. This needs to be repaired each year at a cost of $28,182,528,000. Repairing the cracks and potholes takes $79 428,528,000. This is a significant sum that all levels of government, including local governments, counties, states, and provinces, have to pay annually. These cracks and potholes are guaranteed to be there each year, no mater what. Poor roads can also lead to substantial additional annual expenses for North Americans, which are higher than regular routine vehicle operating costs. A recent Los Angeles study revealed that operating a motor vehicles costs $778 more. However, the annual additional cost to operate a motor-vehicle in other North American cities might be lower than in Los Angeles. Poor road conditions contribute to a large number of deaths each year.

Fuel consumption can be significantly affected by pavements that are cracked, pothole or rutted. According to a 1985 road survey, $21.3 million dollars more fuel was consumed annually by roads with failed pavements. The average price of gasoline was $1.15/gallon at the time in the United States. That is 18.52 billion gallons. Failed pavements are responsible for a lot more gasoline being wasted than ever before. Not only do we have more pavements that have failed than ever, but there are also more cars driving on the roads today.

There are a variety of programs that towns, cities, counties, states, and provincial governments can use to maintain the street and highway pavements. The programs cover preventive maintenance. This includes filling cracks in potholes, overlaying asphalt concrete with some conventional asphalt concrete and reconstruction of damaged pavements. These programs are expensive and require significant financial resources. This amount is not easy to come across, especially during the financial crisis. Cities, towns, and even counties are close to bankruptcy. Even the most wealthy states like California have been forced to fire 20,000 government employees and reduce the pay of 200,000 others during fiscal 2009. The credit crunch that began in 2008 may continue for many years before enough private capital becomes available to drive the economy. The majority of capital available today comes from the stimulus bills passed by Congress. What does all this signify? It means that our pavements will be in poor repair for the foreseeable. Even if funding are restored to pre2008 level, it will still not suffice to address all our crumbled pavements.

The current way we approach all failed pavements needs to change. To think outside the box is the first step. Let’s examine the way we manage our network of streets, highways, and other infrastructure. Preventive Maintenance, a term that we often use is something we love to talk about. What exactly are our intentions? Do we really believe that potholes and cracks can be permanently filled? Is it really possible to believe that old asphalt pavements can be repaired permanently by overlaying them with a few lifts each of new asphalt concrete. If we believe that cracks and potholes will not reflect through the new overlay, then it is time to seriously reevaluate what we have learned, our training and our education. Preventive maintenance refers to conventional asphalt concrete. It can be either dense-graded (or gap-graded). Traditional asphalt concrete mixtures will not prevent past failures from returning in a very short amount of time. Sometimes they may recur in a matter of months or years. Crushed aggregate is needed to pave roads, roads, and highways. The resultant asphalt concrete mix can be classed as conventional asphalt concrete when it is mixed with the appropriate amount asphalt cement. Conventional asphalt cement is much more affordable than other materials. This is one of the reasons it is so common in road building. We observe pavement failures as a result of using traditional asphalt concrete mix. It’s possible to alter the gradation of aggregate without significantly improving the pavement’s performance. There are two options: dense-graded mixtures or gap-graded. In the end, there will be very little improvement. It might take a bit longer for a gape graded pavement to crack than a densely-graded asphalt concrete mix. The larger particles will cause cracks to grow wider and quicker. There are many products out there that claim they can reduce reflective cracking. Some work better then others while others do not.

The majority of potholes can be avoided by reducing or eliminating cracking of new pavements or reflective in overlays. It would result in a significant reduction of the annual $79 428,528,000 cost to fix all the cracks or potholes that occur every year on North American roads and streets. The above reveals that it will continue taking enormous resources to maintain our highway infrastructure.

On average, the highways and roads owned by each state or province are less than 15%. Rest are owned by local governments, cities, and counties. These jurisdictions are responsible for most of the maintenance of the pavement. This means that they will need to raise the money. This is an overwhelming financial burden. The first thing to lose in any budget is street and road maintenance funds, which have been drastically cut. It is not surprising that our streets and roads are in such poor condition.