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