Winter is hard on West Virginia’s roads, with constant freezing and thawing leading to a plethora of potholes. But during pothole season, the West Virginia Division of Highways is ready to pull the trigger on potholes; with a two-fold strategy for before and after asphalt plants open in each region of the state.
“With the spring flowers that pop up also comes our opportunity to come out and start doing permanent repairs on potholes that formed over the winter,” said Joe Pack, P.E., WVDOH Deputy State Highway Engineer for Division Operations.
Patching before the plants open is done for the purpose of protecting drivers and preventing damage to vehicles; these patches use cold mix asphalt and serve an important purpose for the public but do not last as long. Once asphalt plants open, hot asphalt is available for a longer lasting fix. WVDOH uses a five-step process of milling out the pothole (square), brushing loose dirt out of the hole, applying a tacking material to help the asphalt bond, filling the hole with asphalt, rolling the asphalt to compact it and sealing the joints.
Asphalt plants typically open in late March or early April, but this year early opening of a plant in St. Albans means WVDOH is kicking off pothole milling and filling season at the beginning of March. Counties within an hour’s radius of the early-to-open plant are already seeing milled and filled pothole repairs; with long term pothole milling and filling taking place in Kanawha, Boone, Mason and Putnam counties as of the end of February and beginning of March.
As additional plants open around the state in the coming weeks, hot patch repairs will begin in those areas. In the meantime, crews throughout all 55 counties continue to cold patch potholes for the sake of protecting drivers and their vehicles until the plants open.
“This time of year, potholes can form seemingly overnight,” Pack said. “The men and women who maintain our roadways risk their lives every day, surrounded by traffic, to provide the safest roadway they possibly can.”
Potholes serve as a source of frustration for all drivers – including the men and women of the WVDOH. Last year’s strategy was to build consistency into the process statewide, applying best practices for patches that last. This year’s strategy builds on that, to squeeze efficiency into every part of the process – from an early start where possible to having WVDOH trucks lined up at each asphalt plant as it opens.