Pavement Blow-ups

Columbia has had its first pavement blow-up of the year, according to Barry Dalton, a public information officer for the Columbia Public Works Department. Eastbound Bernadette Drive was closed down for over 24 hours earlier this week due to the blow-up. This problem often occurs during the hottest months of the summer and can become more common when the heat is accompanied by moisture. In addition, remnants of ice, snow, and melting chemicals under the top layer of pavement can contribute to the cause of a blow-up. “The roads go through a lot, not only the moisture getting under the pavement, but when roads are treated with salt, it can sometimes create weaknesses,” Dalton said.

A pavement blow-up can become dangerous for drivers when moisture in the pavement expands due to the high temperatures. The pavement then ruptures, resulting in a rough patch on the road. The phenomenon is sometimes known as buckling or tenting, and the blow-ups can range in size from one foot to affecting entire lanes of the road. The buckle can occur in a matter of seconds, according to Dalton. Some describe a blow-up as the opposite of a pothole. In other words, a pothole is a downward collapse in the pavement, while a pavement blow-up occurs when hot asphalt expands and is forced upward. Both irregularities pose a danger to drivers, most commonly causing blown tires.

Crews patched the buckle on Bernadette Drive by removing and replacing the lower levels of the pavement where the damage originated. The new surface requires about 24 hours to properly settle before it is ready for traffic. If the blow-up occurs during rush hour, sometimes a temporary repair can be made. Then crews will complete the removal and replacement at night or a later time when the road can be limited to a single lane. Although this was the first pavement blow-up of the year, the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) expects more as temperatures rise in the coming weeks and months. Last year, the city had three pavement blow-ups.

From behind the wheel, a pavement blow-up appears to be a small pile of rocks or sharp protrusion in the roadway. However, the condition can prove to be dangerous, especially on roadways with high speed limits. MoDOT recently warned drivers of this condition. Although MoDOT says there is little we can do to prepare for pavement blow-ups, communication is the key. “Our crews are on the lookout for blow-ups, but we need the public’s help too,” said Central District Maintenance Engineer Jason Shafer. “Motorists are encouraged to call us when they encounter a pavement blow-up, so it can be fixed quickly.” MoDOT asks all drivers to keep an eye out for the dangerous patches of pavement and to report the condition when it is discovered. Furthermore, do not assume that someone else has reported the condition.

Pavement blow-ups should be reported by calling MoDOT at (888) 275-6636. Drivers can also report to the city at 874-2489 during business hours or by calling Boone County Joint Communications at 311.

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