With less money for roads, experts say pothole season could be worst yet | Minnesota Public Radio News


I get quoted on MPR: With less money for roads, experts say pothole season could be worst yet
by Dan Olson

... University of Minnesota civil engineering professor David Levinson has a long-term suggestion for addressing the pothole problem.

"We haven't invented anything that will eliminate potholes, but we can certainly reduce their number if we build roads better," Levinson said.

Levinson said, for example, it would cost nearly 25 percent more to build stronger county highways. But with money in short supply, it's an unlikely alternative.

One way to raise more money is to ask roadway users, especially owners of heavy trucks, to pay more. The big rigs already pay a lot of roadway use taxes and are only a small percent of overall traffic volume.

But Levinson and other road experts say research shows they do a disproportionate amount of damage to the roads.

"An eighteen wheeler can do 1,600 times as much damage to [the] road as a single passenger car would do over the same stretch," Levinson said.

Putting more axles and tires on the biggest trucks, Levinson said, would spread out their weight, but would be expensive and would use more energy because of increased friction.

Levinson said another partial fix for preventing pothole formation would have snow plows raise their blades an inch or so.

"When the plows touch the pavement and the pavement is cracked or uneven they often pull up chunks of pavement leading to an additional source of pothole," he said.

The problem with this idea, Levinson said, is Minnesota drivers like snow free roads so they can drive faster, rather than roads with an inch of snow on top forcing them to slow down.

On the point about good roads vs. poor roads, see our Cost/Benefit Study: Spring Load Restrictions

On the point about trucks doing more damage than cars see Pavement Interactive: Equivalent Single Axle Load

On the last point, see also Finland Special: Snow As Traffic Calming Device


VTrans (Vermont) typically doesn't plow to bare pavement, at least at first. Their policy, as I've heard from my other half (a Vermont native) is for "passable roads", not snow-free pavement.

Would snow tires become a requirement under that scenario?

David Levinson

Network Reliability in Practice

Evolving Transportation Networks

Place and Plexus

The Transportation Experience

Access to Destinations

Assessing the Benefits and Costs of Intelligent Transportation Systems

Financing Transportation Networks

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This page contains a single entry by David Levinson published on March 15, 2011 12:17 PM.

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