Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The tricky job of patching highways in Kansas

Crews at work filling potholes in north central Kansas 

By Ashley Perez
North Central Kansas 
Public Affairs Manager

Highway maintenance supervisors check their routes regularly for potholes and more. So when Kort St. Clair, Supervisor in McPherson, saw potholes on I-135, he sent his crew out as soon as possible. Equipment Operators came from Council Grove with equipment to help other Equipment Operators from McPherson as soon as they received St. Clair’s assignment. But little did they know that in a couple weeks they would be tackling the same potholes again. But why? 

Equipment Operator rakes material over the pothole while another Equipment
Operator walks behind the truck and sprays material on other areas.  
Several methods of patching are used across the state, and unfortunately it is sometimes hard to tell which of those methods will be the best to use. When patching on the warm December day, the crew chose to use a method called spray patching. Spray patching is when a pothole or crack is thoroughly cleaned using equipment to remove any loose debris.

Hot emulsion oil is then sprayed in the hole or crack to allow an aggregate, such as gravel, to bond and fill the voids. 

In early January, the crew was sent back out to fill the same potholes but this time with a different method, using a cold-weather patch. 

This mix is used as a temporary fix in lower temperatures to fill in the pothole. Finding the best method with varying conditions during the winter can be tricky. 

Even with a perfect pothole patch, it is still vulnerable to break open again due to freeze and thaw cycles. The crew will monitor that area to confirm that the cold weather patch holds up until more permanent repairs can be made to the road. 

“Not every pothole repair is the same but our crews will keep working on them to keep highways in good condition,” St. Clair said. “I ask that you please move over and slow down when driving through our work zones so that highway workers can return home safely to their families.” 

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