The Current

How fixing pesky potholes could help fight climate change: expert

The potholes on Canadian roads may wreck rims, pop tires, and cause you to turn the air blue, but are they also making the fight against climate change harder? We take a deep dive into potholes, asking what can be done to cut their costs to cities and drivers.

Hao Wang led a study on road repairs and greenhouse gas emissions

Potholes are common and costly in Canada — for drivers, municipalities, and the environment. One researcher tells us how fixing them can reduce the impacts of climate change. (CBC)

Read Story Transcript

Potholes are the bane of many Canadians' existence this time of year. But fixing them could do more than keep your vehicle in good shape; it could also combat climate change, according to an expert.

"By fixing potholes or even doing early repair to [prevent] potholes, this would [change] the load resistance of your car tires, so basically you have less fuel consumption," said Hao Wang, associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

"By burning less gases, basically you are getting less carbon dioxide coming from the tailpipe. Eventually this will save global warming potential on climate change," he told The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

Wang is the lead author of a study published in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation, which looks at the impact of road repairs on climate change.

Hao Wang is an associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at Rutgers University. (Submitted by Hao Wang)

The researchers found preventative maintenance on roads can cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to two per cent. Maintenance can also help drivers save money on fuel, and vehicle wear and tear.

Freezing and thawing cycles make potholes a common and costly problem in Canada. Toronto alone spends millions of dollars a year repairing potholes.

To learn more about how potholes wreak havoc on Canada, and impact climate change, Tremonti spoke to:

  • Tracey Billing, who had an unfortunate run-in with a pothole in Guelph, Ont.
  • Dave Hein, principal engineer at Applied Research Associates. He was recently commissioned by the Transportation Association of Canada to write a report about the pothole problem.
  • Hao Wang, associate professor in civil and environmental engineering at Rutgers University.

Click 'listen' near the top of this page to hear the full conversation.


With files from CBC News. Produced by Ines Colabrese and Samira Mohyeddin.

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