TRAVERSE CITY — Balmy days followed by nose-numbing temperatures.
These back-to-back, thaw-to-freezing cycles are making a big mess of northern Michigan roads, said Bob Cole, public services director for the city of Traverse City.
“You normally see potholes in the spring, but we’ve had four or five springs already this winter,” Cole said. “It drives us absolutely nuts. And the county’s got the same problem. Everyone is facing the same situation. People say, ‘It’s warm. That’s good news.’ Not really.”
The city has pothole repair crews out every day, even when it’s snowing. But patches need a dry surface to stick, so they usually last no more than a couple of days. Not surprisingly, the old roads are most susceptible to potholes because they have more cracks, Cole said.
Cole likens a pothole to a miniature volcano.
“If you could watch the pothole development, it doesn’t take very long,” he said. “Moisture gets in, freezes and heaves and blows the whole thing into a blister. The asphalt gets ripped off by a car going through or a snowplow, and then you’ve got the hole sitting there.”
Stephanie Burns, a city heavy equipment operator, spent a morning this week fixing up Union Street.
“It’s just a mess this year, especially on the roads that are falling apart,” she said.
Union Street and Cass streets, just north of 14th Street, are especially hard hit, along with E. Eighth Street between Woodmere Avenue and Union Street. Even Grandview Parkway is pothole-pocked.
Burns said her patches won’t last long.
“We are putting Band-aids on them until spring when we get the hot asphalt,” she said. “It’s just to keep us safe until we get the real good stuff.”