December's stretch of below-normal temperatures and January's ice storm, which closed Cabarrus County Schools for a week, have kept state road crews busier than usual making temporary repairs until permanent fixes can be implemented.
The N.C. Department of Transportation is in charge of about 1,000 miles of primary and secondary roads throughout Cabarrus County, Concord and Harrisburg. At least 15 secondary roads and parts of three primary roads (N.C. 24/27, N.C. 3 and U.S. 601) are scheduled to be resurfaced this year.
Work on state-maintained roads could begin as early as April, depending on funding, but contractors have until November, when paving season generally ends, to complete the work. The state updates the list annually using criteria such as available funding, severity of repairs and traffic volume to determine what roads might make the list.
Secondary roads scheduled to get resurfaced this year include Broadway Road, Cabarrus Station Road, Central Heights, Lower Rocky River Road, Roberta Church Road and Zion Church Road.
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Janice Hampton, the Cabarrus maintenance engineer for N.C. DOT, said the department is finalizing plans but is confident most, if not all, of the roads on this year's list will get resurfaced.
"We usually submit a whole lot more than what they're able to approve," she said. "But there's a pretty good chance all these will be done this year."
For more than a month, N.C. DOT has had four, four-member crews and a "one-man patcher" vehicle handling area repairs daily. Cold weather increases the demand for services, but crews also handle shoulder repair and grading and drainage work on area roads. Once DOT knows a road will be paved, funds are only focused on that road for urgent repairs.
"Normally we try to take care of any potholes we are aware of within a 24-hour period," said Hampton. "Sometimes we have to make a temporary repair for safety reasons, and then we make a more permanent repair when the weather permits. There's a lot that goes into determining if a road will be placed on the resurfacing list - from funding, traffic volumes, type of cracking, amount and type of repairs needed, etcetera."
The freeze/thaw cycle can cause the asphalt to heave. Cracks in pavement allow in moisture, which often is a main cause of potholes. Plowing and the brine mixture that helps melt ice and snow also can damage roads. During January's weeklong ice event, Hampton said N.C. DOT crews treated a lot of secondary roads that aren't normally treated.
"Temperatures being as low as they were for as long as they were really affected our roads," she said. "The last storm was declared a disaster, and we haven't had that in while."
Jen Thompson, a Charlotte-based communications officer with N.C. DOT, added "There are seasonal limitations for when we can do street resurfacing. There are only certain times a year they can do that type of work simply due to the fact that temperatures cooperate."