British Columbia

Drivers urged to slow down as crews rush to repair B.C. roads riddled with potholes

As crews work to fill the hundreds of holes in need of repair, British Columbia drivers are being warned to stay alert to make sure everyone gets home safe.

Snow, rain and freezing temperatures have created the ideal conditions to pop a tire

A car drives over a pothole in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. The city says it is dealing with "hundreds and hundreds" of the holes created by the recent snow, cold and heavy rain. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

If you have driven on British Columbia's South Coast recently you would be hard pressed to not see a pothole.

The region has been hit with a real roller-coaster ride of weather this winter, and now, the effects are playing out on the roads where newly-created craters are posing a dangerous risk to motorists.

Potholes form when water gets into cracks in the road and weakens the base of gravel and soil. Without that base, the asphalt becomes more vulnerable as vehicles pass over it. Recent freezing temperatures sped up the pothole-making process because ice expands and contracts and splits the cracks wider.

"That's kind of led to the ultimate, or the ideal, conditions for potholes to develop," said Matt Brown, streets manager for the City of Surrey, speaking Thursday on CBC's The Early Edition.

Brown said Surrey municipal crews are currently dealing with "hundreds and hundreds" of holes, far more than they normally average at this time of year.

Spotted on Thursday, Jan. 13 is one of the hundreds of potholes waiting to be fixed in Surrey, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

In the City of Vancouver, the situation is similar.

According to Amy Sidwell, manager for street operations for that municipality, the city has already filled 197 potholes in 2022. And the number is growing.

"Our street operations crews are getting to work repairing a growing number of potholes across the city," said Sidwell.

She said Vancouver crews are prioritizing deeper potholes and if anyone notices an area that requires their attention, they should call the city at 311 and report it.

Across the Salish Sea, many mid-Vancouver Island drivers have been turning to social media to report holes wreaking havoc on Highways 19 and 19A  between Nanaimo and Lighthouse Country.

The City of Nanaimo also issued a social media warning for area drivers.

Road maintenance in this region is the responsibility of Mainroad Group, not municipal crews. CBC reached out to the private contractor Thursday, but was told no media spokesperson was available to take questions.

Further south, in the District of Saanich, potholes are a current priority for Harley Machielse, director of engineering and public works.

Machielse said three crews spent the full day Tuesday trying to repair the roads.

And while repairs are underway, Machielse worries that with months of winter weather left, it could turn into a whack-a-mole situation with holes being filled just as others pop up.

Wet weather, said Machielse, is not ideal for patching holes because asphalt bonds better on a dry surface. Because of this, he figures temporary patch jobs done now may need permanent patching come spring.

As crews work to fill the hundreds of holes in need of repair, British Columbia drivers are being warned to stay alert to make sure everyone gets home safe.

Sean McDonald has been a driving instructor in the Lower Mainland for more than 20 years and said even he has had some close calls on the roads recently due to people swerving to avoid potholes or tailgating him when he has had to react.

 "It's very difficult sometimes, not only to see potholes when it's dark and raining, but it's difficult to estimate how deep they are." 

He is urging drivers to slow down and to stay back from the vehicle in front of them. If a pothole blows your tire, or the tire of the driver in front of you, he says, you will be grateful for the space.


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