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April 4, 2014

Potholes make their mark on Southern N.H.

Fluctuating temperatures wreak havoc on roads, budgets

Rapidly changing weather since December has taken a toll on roads, leaving potholes and frost heaves across Southern New Hampshire.

While temperatures can soar into the 50s one day, it hasn’t been unusual for them to drop below freezing the next.

It’s those wildly fluctuating temperatures — accompanied by occasional freezing precipitation — that can leave small craters in local roadways.

For road agents such as Michael Pivero of Newton, it’s just plain frustrating.

“It’s as bad as it’s been in a long time,” Pivero said yesterday. “The severe temperature changes this winter have made it pretty tough.”

When a little rain or melting snow seeps below the road’s surface, it just contributes to the problem, causing pavement to expand and crack.

“It’s the worst scenario for roads,” Pivero said. “It’s freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw.”

Pivero said he’s used about 5 tons of cold patch to repair potholes compared to the usual 3 tons per season. A ton of cold patch costs about $100, he said.

The erratic temperature changes began four months ago and continue to make life difficult for road crews.

“There is no doubt it’s been brutal from a temperature perspective,” Derry public works director Michael Fowler said.

Highway crews have been out making the rounds the last few weeks, using cold patch to fill whatever potholes they can.

“We just got done doing all the roads in Kingston and we’re running low on cold patch,” Kingston road agent Richard St. Hilaire said. “There have been more potholes than usual.”

When there was a brief thaw in December, some town road crews — including Kingston’s — took advantage of the warm weather to fix potholes. That usually wouldn’t happen for another month.

In late January, St. Hilaire said it was one of the worst seasons for potholes he had seen in about 15 years.

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