Kings County Department of Transportation, municipalities addressing pothole problem

Kirk Starratt
Published on April 16, 2014
Town of Wolfville staff working near Landmark East school. – Shannon MacDonald,
Shannon MacDonald

“There’s no end to them,” the provincial transportation department’s area manager, Basil Pitts, says about the pothole situation in Kings County.

Pitts said the department has a plan to deal with the asphalt craters plaguing the area this spring. Local hot mix asphalt plants haven’t opened yet and there isn’t any available from Halifax until later this month. The department uses cold mix asphalt to fix potholes that could cause damage, he said, but cold mix doesn’t stick well and the repair doesn’t last long.

When someone calls to complain about a pothole, it’s logged in a computerized notification system. Supervisors in New Minas and Berwick assess the potholes and assign repairs as weather permits. It’s the weather, particularly freezing and thawing cycles, that plays the biggest role in creating potholes.

When hot mix is available, crews will first tackle the worst holes on Highway 101 and Trunk 1. Once local hot mix plants start producing, detailed repairs are done on the worst areas, beginning with 100-series highways, then trunk roads and high-volume local roads.

Some spreader patching is planned for Commercial Street in New Minas this summer, as well as repaving from Commercial Street to Prospect Road. To make the best use of funds, not a lot of resources will be allocated to patch roads and streets due for repaving later this year, Pitts said.

A section of Highway 101 from Ben Jackson Road to Exit 10 is also scheduled for repaving, as well part of Aylesford Road, which ranked eighth in CAA’s top-10 worst roads in Atlantic Canada April 14.


Wolfville working to fix potholes

According to the town’s public works director, Wolfville potholes are worse than normal this spring. Kevin Kerr said the “a long, hard winter” has taken its toll.

“I would say it’s certainly worse than normal,” Kerr said.

Towns are responsible for maintaining streets within town limits. The worst potholes in Wolfville are patched in the winter and early spring using cold mix asphalt.

“Once winter is over, we use hot mix,” Kerr said. “We’re using hot mix now.”

The town has an asphalt recycler that reheats used asphalt and breaks it down so it can be reapplied to the road.

“It’s good for us,” Kerr said. “It saves money and it gets rid of material we just stockpiled in the past and had little use for.”

The town typically pays a contractor for paving, but town crews do patching to save money. Wolfville’s public works crew goes street-by-street to fix problems, starting with high traffic areas. Kerr said if they’re aware of significant damage on a particular street, crews try to get to it first.

The town budgets between $200,000 and $250,000 per year for street maintenance and Kerr said there’s no shortage of work to do.

“We budget what we think we need, within our ability to pay,” he said.


A little different in county

The county doesn’t have the same pothole problem as local towns - at least not yet. Acting public works manager Tim Bouter said the municipality took over new subdivision roads in 1995. Before that, the province owned and maintained all roads outside of towns.

The county is currently only responsible for 22.5 kilometres of roads. Bouter said these roads are relatively new and have less traffic volume, particularly truck traffic.

“For these reasons, we haven’t dealt with a high amount of potholes to date,” Bouter said. The county does patch potholes when required, but the current budget is less than $5,000 per year.

“We do not just fill in the potholes or overlay with a skim coat, because over time it saves us money to spend the amount required for a proper, long-term repair,” Bouter said.

When the municipality’s contractor repairs a pothole, Bouter said they would use cold pack as a temporary repair in the winter. In the spring, they cut around the entire pothole, replace gravel if necessary, place a tack coat around the edges and then place and compact hot mix asphalt.

Read more about the pothole problems in Kings County here.