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Impact of freeze-thaw on MI roads and what municipalities are doing to prepare

Posted at 5:03 PM, Dec 28, 2022

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. (WXYZ) — On Southfield Road near Mount Vernon is one of the many surfaces the Oakland County Road Commission says it’s keeping a close eye on as temperatures start to rise.

“I actually came out the gas station and the whole was covered up with water and when I went in, it said ‘boom boom’ and I was on my way to a mechanic after that (laughter),” said Mario Huff, Driver.

He can laugh about it now.

But a couple of years ago, Mario Huff says a pothole led to a broken axle, tie rod, and hub bearing costing him upwards of $500 — unexpectedly.

"Newer roads, we're not usually going to see them. It's the older roads that are in need of repair," said Diane Cross, MDOT spokeswoman.

As the weather prepares to rise above freezing late this week, MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross explains whenever you have extreme differences in daytime and nighttime temperatures, you have a recipe for potholes.

"It's cold at night. So, we have all that ice that expands. During the daytime, the warmer temperatures melt the snow and ice, and now more water gets into cracks," Cross said.

"Any kind of crack or crevice in the road. The night time freezes. It expands and makes a bigger hole."

New cavities in the road collapse under the weight of vehicular traffic.

From state trunk lines to city and county roads.

In Oakland County, the road commission says there will be some potholes.

But Craig Bryson says it’s not expected to be a huge problem because we’ve had a relatively mild fall.

“We didn’t have a lot of real low temperatures. So the ground hasn’t frozen as far down as it usually would in, say February, when we get a February thaw and we have potholes,” said Craig Bryson, Public Information Officer with the Oakland County Road Commission.

Also because of a mild fall, he says the county was able to get out to do hot patching which is a more long term fix compared to the cold patch the county uses during the winter. The cold patch pops out more easily.

Bryson says the concerns for Oakland County are “temperature swings are tough on the gravel roads. We’re concerned that some of the gravel roads may turn to soupy mud. We may even have some flooding on the gravel roads.”

Huff says he’ll be extra vigilant in the coming days.

“You do gotta watch the roads and sometimes you still gotta watch other people because people go to try to avoid a pothole and run into you. So, you definitely gotta stay high alert,” Huff said.

To report potholes on roads managed by MDOT, call (888) 296-4546 or visit MDOT's online reporting form here.