Vermont road conditions

Road conditions in Vermont: dark green = best; light green = good; light purple = moderately bad; dark purple = very bad.

WEATHERSFIELD, Vt. — The roads didn’t need any additional snow to be difficult to travel on. Even before this latest storm, large potholes and breaks in the roadway multiplied with each cycle of freezing and thawing.

Highway departments send out their heavy trucks and plows to clean up the roads when winter storms blankets them with snow. Both here and in nearby Windsor, highway departments have deployed electronic signs warning of rough roads. 

Ray Stapleton, the highway manager in Weathersfield, said he has noticed the increase in potholes all over, not just in his town. One problem, he believes, is that nobody has enough money to do the preventative paving necessary.

In the case of Weathersfield, the town’s western artery, Center Road, is in serious need of paving. The town meeting in March will vote on an article to borrow funds for that paving project. And before this winter even hit, the state transportation agency VTrans repaved much of Route 44 and 44A (Back Mountain Road) in Windsor in preparation. Yet that too has deteriorated since, agency data shows.

On Monday, VTrans started patching potholes in 23 miles of I-91, from Weathersfield south to Westminster, according to a public log of its maintenance activities.

But even the most ambitious repaving program can’t keep up with nature when temperatures swing from sub-freezing up to the mid-40s and back again within a few days. Potholes happen when water gets underneath the pavement, and breaks it down by freezing and melting.

Even if crews come out and fill the pothole, water and ice can get under the patch, and if thaws and freezes again, the pothole can reappear.

However, getting those potholes filled may not just help motorists today, but may slightly mitigate climate change as well. A study published in January in the International Journal of Sustainable Transportation investigated the estimated change in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions for different types of asphalt pavement preservation. The study tried to estimate how road roughness may predict CO2  emissions.

According to the study’s abstract, “The results show that pavement preservation brings significant environmental benefit in reduction of CO2 emissions due to the improved pavement surface condition despite the emission generated at construction stage.”

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