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Island roads suffering from freeze-and-thaw winter

Miwa Takahashi, a journalism student at Holland College, measures the depth of a pothole on Queen Street in Charlottetown.
Miwa Takahashi, a journalism student at Holland College, measures the depth of a pothole on Queen Street in Charlottetown. - Mitsuki Mori

If you’ve found yourself swerving to avoid potholes on P.E.I. roads, you’re not alone.

A weather pattern of freezing temperatures followed by thawing is wreaking havoc on streets across the Island.

It’s an annual rite of passage in the spring after tough Canadian winters, but this time it’s happening in February.

Charlottetown public works manager Scott Adams says the road decay is only a couple of weeks ahead of schedule.

Queen Street and older sections of the downtown have been hit the worst, Adams said.

“It’s a number of streets where we’re seeing some potholing and ravelling.

“The freeze allows more water under the subgrade and with that quick freeze, you’re having rapid expansion. The more times it thaws out and then freezes again quickly, it can make things a little bit worse for our roads.”

There won’t be a permanent fix until asphalt plants open, which usually happens in early May depending on the temperatures and demand, Adams said.

Until then, crews will be using what’s called a cold mix.

“That does work for a storm or two, but it comes back out.”

The city will also use a hot asphalt recycler to heat up asphalt stored at its depot, Adams said.

“It gives it a little bit more permanent repair in the winter months. But, again, it’s not a guarantee. It’s just a patch job to get us through to the spring.”

Getting through that stretch will be easier if the temperature remains steady, Adams said, whether it’s cold or mild.

Stephen Szwarc, acting director of the Highway Maintenance Division, said last winter was actually worse for the constant thawing and freezing.

The province also has cold mix on hand, as well as a patching machine that can be moved around.

“It’s been pretty much widespread across the whole province,” Szwarc said.

“We get calls from different areas right across the Island every day, so we will dispatch our crews to deal with issues.”

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