Weekend ice storm undoes some of Hamilton's pothole repairs

The city lost ground in its epic battle with potholes this weekend when the rare mid-April ice storm heaved asphalt "like a shovel."

'This kind of weather is just killer on the roads,' says Dan McKinnon, the city's public works manager

Water runs down a grate near Hamilton's city hall Monday morning. The freezing and melting pattern caused by this weekend's rare mid-April ice storm heaved streets and destroyed some of the city's efforts to stay ahead of potholes. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

The city lost ground in its epic battle with potholes this weekend when the rare mid-April ice storm heaved asphalt "like a shovel."

Hamilton crews had recently patched some teeth-rattling potholes in areas like Burlington Street, Main St. West and Rymal Road, says Dan McKinnon, general manager of public works. And the weather this weekend damaged some of that progress.

The city is still taking stock of how much the storm will cost overall, but McKinnon fears it will be millions. That includes road repairs.

"It was looking pretty good," McKinnon said of the pre-weekend pothole filling. But the storm "is having an adverse effect on the short-term repairs."

"We were hoping to get through the summer with those. This kind of weather is just killer on the roads."

Potholes have been a preoccupation at city hall this year. McKinnon and others say as climate change worsens, road conditions will too.

Water permeates roads during warmer weather, the city says, and heaves asphalt when temperatures drop again. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

A "freeze-thaw" cycle causes potholes. Moisture permeates roads when temperatures are higher, then freezes and heaves the pavement.

The water "acts like a shovel" when temperatures drop, said Sam Sidawi, the city's head of asset management. That surely happened this weekend.

"Certainly, this is a climate change issue," Sidawi said of the pothole issue.

When his 30-year engineering career began, he said, there would be about three freeze-thaw cycles a year. "Now we're seeing them, on average, once a week."

Road conditions made headlines earlier this year when the city did nearly $1 million in emergency repairs to Main Street West. The weekend storm didn't impact those, McKinnon said.

City council's public works committee Monday approved millions more in pressing pothole repairs. This year, crews will do $5.9 million in work on the following areas:

  • Burlington Street from Sherman Avenue North to Kenilworth Avenue North. Estimated cost: $2.4 million.
  • Cannon Street East from Sherman Avenue North to James Street North. Estimated cost: $1,650,000.
  • Burlington Street from Tire Street to the MTO Limit. Cost: $900,000.
  • Upper Gage Avenue from Mohawk Road East to the Lincoln Alexander Parkway. Cost: $900,000.

The committee approved $14 million in pressing road repairs that will be spread among the 15 wards this year.


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at samantha.craggs@cbc.ca


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