Freeze-thaw cycle creates many potholes

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Veteran highway crew chiefs know that when you get constant freeze-thaw cycles like we have had in Western New York going back to December, you’re going to get a lot of potholes.

They are as much a part of winter and spring driving as snowplows and salt spreaders. Street crews are kept busy patching them, like supervisor Brian Norman’s Department of Public Works crew on Bailey Avenue near Broadway.

Crater-filled streets can also lead to a bonanza for car repair shops, like Dunn Tire. Manager Scott Kaeselau says slamming into potholes can damage your wheels in two ways: either blow out the sidewall or bust your rim.

“A lot of potholes definitely doing some damage to the vehicles,” he said. “If the sidewall is damaged, you actually have to replace the tire; it’s unrepairable. And if the rim is an alloy rim, you can’t repair an allow rim. The only way to fix it is to replace it.”

A continuous cycle of freezing and thawing, over time, can severely weaken the pavement, leading to a pothole. So far this winter, we’ve had a lot of that.

Public works officials across Western New York anticipated the recent thaw would lead to a rash of potholes and pothole complaints.

Buffalo Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak said, “As you know, we had the heavy snows, and anticipated the warm up that was going to occur right after that. So we had crews ready to go.”

Stepniak says crews are putting down what is called “cold patch” – just a temporary filling, because of the weather and moisture extremes in the winter. Crews will lay down a more permanent type of “hot patch” when the weather warms up.

“But the material we’ve got now is pretty good. It’s a modified KP, which is very pliable, very workable in the wintertime, which allows that material to get in the hole and tamp, and move on,” he explained.

Stepniak is reminding city resident of Buffalo’s 48-hour pothole guarantee. Report a pothole on the city’s 311 hotline, and a public works crew will respond within 48 hours. provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review. Note: Comments containing links are not allowed.

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