General Question

gorillapaws's avatar

Why would city road repairs already be breaking down?

Asked by gorillapaws (30457points) November 12th, 2023
21 responses
“Great Question” (1points)

In my neighborhood the road repair crews have been doing a particularly horrible job. I’m not sure if they’re 3rd party contractors or city/state workers. They recently had speed bumps (the large asphalt kind) installed and we joke that the speed bumps are the only smooth section of road.

My question is why would road repairs fail so quickly? Are they cutting corners? If so, what corners would that be? Could this be a case of contractors giving kickbacks to local government officials? I’m too unfamiliar with road repairs to understand how new repairs could fail very quickly, but perhaps some of you have insight into what may be going on?

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kritiper's avatar

Too much heavy traffic!

Tropical_Willie's avatar

They are not fixing the problem which is the roadbed down several inches or more. It is like putting a bandaid over a gaping wound that needs stitches.

MrGrimm888's avatar

@kritiper nailed it I bet.

If they are only repairing the road instead of re-paving, filled potholes can be easily broken. Once the road breaks, it will crumble away quickly with traffic.

It’s certainly possible that the road was never properly built, like TW said…

smudges's avatar

I agree with the traffic theory, but also wonder if they’re using inferior materials.

ragingloli's avatar

They use the cheapest option available.

seawulf575's avatar

I think it is a combination of all of the above. Heavy traffic puts more wear and tear on the existing roadway. The base of the road was probably substandard when it was put in. And they are spot filling which usually consists of just throwing asphalt into the hole and letting traffic push it down. This is usually the cheapest way to fill holes. It does a crappy job of filling the hole and does nothing to fill in existing cracks elsewhere in the road. These existing cracks will just grow and turn into more broken up asphalt.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

One thing not mentioned, the environmental conditions may have been wrong when they made the repairs. I have made this mistake in my own driveway.

Forever_Free's avatar

It can vary town to town, city to city. Small towns vote for a road agent. Larger towns it is part of the city government.
These things get noticed by everyone and can also cause damage to vehicles (Tires, Wheels, Alignment)
Either way you should call to report it.

filmfann's avatar

A friend of mine is a county engineer. He goes out to verify the concrete mix being poured.
All the trucks get their mix from the same source, but a couple trucks were failing the mix test. Turns out after filling their trucks with the certified mix, they would divert to a location where they could add water to the mix. Why? It makes it easier to clean the tank after.
My friend would reject the tainted loads, and the drivers had some ‘splaining to do.

LadyMarissa's avatar

Where I live, it’s a 3rd party contractor & they gave such a deep discount in order to get the contract that when needed, they use inferior products then cut corners at every turn in order to turn a minimum profit on the job. I live in a tiny town where a city crew is not feasible or even needed.

gorillapaws's avatar

Thanks for all of the great answers.

@seawulf575 “The base of the road was probably substandard when it was put in.”

That’s an excellent point. I know they repaved the entire thing several years ago and it was very lumpy.

@Blackwater_Park “One thing not mentioned, the environmental conditions may have been wrong when they made the repairs”

Another good thought!

I’m learning a lot about road repairs. Thanks everyone.

LifeQuestioner's avatar

Like others said, they probably slapped a Band-Aid on it a lot of times. When I lived in my last apartment before this one, I can’t tell you how many times our water was turned off because there was another water main break just down the road from me on the main road. And it was only the year before I moved that they finally dug it up and properly put new pipes in. Why they couldn’t have done that in the first place, I don’t know.

JLeslie's avatar

25 years ago I saw a show talking about an asphalt aggregate that would last a long time. If I remember correctly it had some recycled tire in it so it had give. I think it was the union that fought against it, or maybe some other group, because it would mean less work for people who lay down and repair roads.

Another option, which was already mentioned, is the bottom layer of the road might be inadequate.

Do you have a lot of sinkholes or earthquakes in your area? The earth might be shifting a lot.

Heavy traffic helps to break up roads too, but if the road and fix is done well for the terrain, climate, and what is appropriate for the traffic weight, it should hold well for much longer than a year.

Change in temperature breaks up roads, especially depending on the prep and aggregate.

MrGrimm888's avatar

^What the road is built on is a huge factor in how it performs.

Most of Charleston SC (where I am) is built on top of marsh/swamp. The roads on in some places resemble mountain ranges, more than roads. Constant tidal flooding and hurricane seasons don’t help.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws We have a section of road around the corner from us that basically was asphalt poured over a dirt road. No foundation, nothing. As a result it consistently gets sink holes and ruts and then they come through and pave over it (after spot patching for a year). In the long run it costs more to do this than to tear it up and fix the real problem.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Most of the roads today were probably put down in the 20s and 30s and only had to deal with mild 20s and 30s traffic.

Caravanfan's avatar

I think others may have answered it but the ground is often unstable, especially if it’s on sand. You can pave over that but it will sink, especially when weather hits.

seawulf575's avatar

One other consideration might be where you live. I used to live in NE Ohio where they salted the roads in the winter. That salt reacts with the asphalt and embrittles it, resulting in potholes and broken roads. Doing a half-assed job of filling holes only makes it worse.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

Then there are the freeze-thaw cycles they have in those latitudes.

gorillapaws's avatar

All good points. We recently had a pothole filled and 3 days later it’s already crumbling. Lunacy, and as @seawulf575 points out, this has to be horrifically inefficient from a cost perspective. I do wonder about kickbacks at the local level, or just general incompetence and apathy.

seawulf575's avatar

@gorillapaws I’m going with a little of both. It kinda depends on what street it is and who is the controlling bureaucracy. If it is a locally controlled (city) street, county controlled street, or state controlled street will dictate some of the levels of corruption and incompetence. Most state controlled streets are typically set up to be repaved on a schedule as that is a fairly costly one-time outlay of money. It can be moved up if there is a reason, but it would generally require someone to actually take the time and effort to push for it. Example: they are building like crazy around our neighborhood. Due to the increased traffic and the heavy equipment and dump trucks coming through our neighborhood, our street started breaking up sooner than was originally planned. Several people in the neighborhood began calling and writing various bureaucrats to get paving done and it was. The first move the state took was to send out someone to see if we were making it all up or not, then try to patch it. And remember, they usually award the contracts to the lowest bidder so you are likely to get cheapest effort and results.

As for corruption, I believe strongly that you find that more at a local level. It’s easier and cheaper for a developer to buy a few local politicians that to buy ones at the state level. Of course that is speculation on my part. If I could prove it I’d already be taking people down.

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