Wild weather hurting roads, threatening infrastructure

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Big swings in temperature have helped take a big toll on roads and streets in Central Indiana during the first month of 2013.

January has featured highs in the 60’s and lows in the single digits throughout the month, and that has meant more and more potholes popping up around Indianapolis.

To say Liberty Creek Drive has pothole problems doesn’t do it justice.

“It’s like a pit,” said Maxine Rogers, who lives along the road on the northwest side of Indianapolis.

“You don’t want to hit them hard at all,” said Jason Cole, who also lives along the bad stretch. “You’d lose a tire.”

As a Corvette owner, Cole said he actually avoids taking left turns out of his driveway. The craters aren’t avoidable for Rogers, so she says her husband filed a report with the city.

“They’re waiting for the weather,” Rogers said. “But you know that’s not going to happen the way our weather’s going.”

Adam Burns, a civil engineer for CMT Consulting Engineers, said the wet weather and wildly changing temperatures eat away at the roads from beneath.

“The water that’s in the sub-grade begins to freeze,” Burns said. “It expands and it pushes the pavement up.”

Burns said the pavement bends back each time the ice thaws, but that’s the problem.

“The more and more that happens, the more it leads to failures and that’s when you start to see the potholes,” Burns said.

In January that has happened a lot. There have been at least 13 days where the high was above freezing and the low was below it.

“There’s only so many times (the pavement) can bend before it breaks,” Burns said.

And what about those other breaks involving water mains? Though Indy’s aging infrastructure has its share of problems, Citizens Water says this January isn’t any worse than last year because sustained freezing temperatures are the most damaging to the buried pipes. Now, that those frigid temps are returning, don’t be surprised to see more breaks and bumps in the road.

In the meantime Rogers will make the best of it.

“I have to maneuver in order to avoid the potholes,” Rogers said. “I have a strategy that I use. I just go near, or almost up on, the sidewalk and then come in to turn into my driveway.”

As of mid-January, the city of Indianapolis has received 92 pothole service orders and repaired 110.

You can report a pothole online.