As temperatures finally begin to rise, East Lansing residents will have more than just April showers to worry about. Potholes and pavement wear are at their peak during spring months, proving disastrous to roads and cars alike.
As the weather fluctuates between freezing and mild, the pavement continuously freezes and thaws. This cycle intensifies the damage done to roads from regular traffic loads.
“We are still waiting to see how the overall road conditions turn out this year,” said Bob Scheuerman, City of East Lansing Engineering Administrator. “We need to wait for the final thaw to fully assess the damage.”
Potholes have already begun to pop up all around the area, showing signs of a rough trek ahead.
“My car is already the opposite of a smooth ride,” said Melissa Witkowski, a student at Michigan State University. “It pretty much constantly feels like I’m going off-roading.”
Michigan roads have taken a toll on Witkowski’s 1999 sea foam green Pontiac Sunfire. Transmission issues prevent her from taking her vehicle on the freeway at all anymore.
“Last year, I hit a pothole driving on I-96 and immediately had to get of the expressway,” said Witkowski. “I’m not a car person so I still don’t know how bad it messed my car up. I know that it shook it up so badly that I couldn’t accelerate over 40 mph for about a week. Now I can get up to 60 on a good day.”
Newer vehicles are not immune to pothole damage either. Not all damage done is immediate, or always visible to the naked eye.
“A lot of people think potholes only hurt your car’s tires and rims,” said Frank Felicia, a local mechanic. “They can actually cause a whole lot of trouble that can add up to thousands in repairs real quick.”
Over time, damage from pavement imperfections can prematurely wear out a car’s shocks and struts, misalign the steering system, and even cause engine failure.
“I’ve had to invest so much money that I don’t have in this car,” said Witkowski. “I probably could have two crappy Sunfires with the amount I’ve had to put into my old lady.”
No one knows just how rough the roads may get over the next few weeks. East Lansing infrastructure workers are preparing to take on the task.
“So far, the potholes aren’t as bad as in previous years,” said Ron Lacasse, City of East Lansing Infrastructure Administrator. “We haven’t had as many freeze-thaw cycles, so as long as the weather stays relatively dry, pothole season may be somewhat manageable.”
In addition to weather and traffic wear on the pavement, deicing agents used to combat snow and ice also have an effect.
“We use road salt in addition to three different types of brine in the winter,” said Lacasse. “We don’t enforce road closures during the winter to prevent damage, but spring loading restrictions went into effect within the past few weeks.”
Ideally, the weather would stay fair and all the potholes and cracks would be filled within the next few months.
“Overall road funding has been inadequate for overall road repair,” said Lacasse. “We aren’t in any trouble, but it’s just not as good as it should be.”
East Lansing residents can expect two major construction projects to begin soon.
“We will be working on Bogue Street from Grand River to the Red Cedar,” said Lacasse. “After that, work will begin on Abbot Road from Burcham to Saginaw.”
As long as the weather continues to heat up and stay dry, pothole season shouldn’t be as detrimental as it has been in the past. Being aware of the road and avoiding trouble spots are drivers’ best defense against pothole-related damage this spring.
“Potholes are my worst enemy,” said Witkowski. “My car’s days are numbered. I really hope this spring doesn’t do it in.”