May 2023
Spring has Sprung – and So Have the Potholes
Year after year spring in Kentucky brings showers, flowers, sunshine – and potholes. It’s true that potholes can form any time of year, but rising springtime temperatures make them an all-too-common sight this time of year. But don’t despair – KYTC doesn’t just patch potholes. We’re here to answer all your burning pothole questions too.
For starters - why are potholes called potholes, anyway?

Great question! Here’s the scoop: Way back in England in the 1400s, wagon and coach wheels would dig deep ruts in the roads. The story goes that the potters of the day, looking for a cheap source of materials, would go out to the ruts and dig up the clay deposits underneath for their next pottery project. Hence, folks began calling those holes “potholes," and the name has stuck for nearly 700 years. Now you know!
Ok, but we don’t have potters digging up our roads anymore. So where do modern potholes come from?

Ah, a scientific question! It’s really pretty simple. When it rains or snows, water seeps through cracks in the pavement. It then expands and contracts as temperatures change – and we sure do have plenty of temperature changes in the Midwest. The water is trapped under the pavement while it freezes and eventually melts, leaving a space. The asphalt above and around this space falls into it, creating a pothole.

Between the snow from the winter and the spring rains, there’s no shortage of water under our pavement in Kentucky. As the weather warms, the water melts and the asphalt falls into the empty space. That’s why it’s typical to see more potholes forming in the springtime.

Well, they’re really annoying. How do you fix them?

We patch them one by one. Pothole patching is a very localized effort where a patching material is placed into the hole and compacted, recreating a smooth surface on the roadway. In many cases, crews will heat the pothole to remove any extra moisture in the pavement and soften the area so the patching asphalt will adhere better.

Sometimes potholes shouldn’t be patched, though, because the root of the problem lies deeper under the surface. This is called a base failure. The base of any roadway is similar to the foundation of the house. If you don’t have a solid foundation, then the rest of the house will crumble. When a base failure happens, we work on getting a bigger project lined up to tackle it, and restore the road from the foundation (base) on up!

How do we report potholes so they get fixed?

We can’t fix potholes if we don’t know about them. So let us know! If you encounter potholes on a state road, please visit KYTC’s website, scroll over to the Contact tab and choose "Report a Hazard" to fill out the form to report it. If you come across a pothole on a city- or county-maintained road, you’ll need to report it to that governing entity. The best way to do this is visit the city or county website and search for their pothole reporting form or contact information for their public works department.
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