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Researchers modify asphalt to fill springtime potholes

Driving in this city sometimes feels like manoeuvering through an obstacle course, suggests Calgary resident Tammy Ish.

Driving in this city sometimes feels like manoeuvering through an obstacle course, suggests Calgary resident Tammy Ish.

She takes Elbow Drive to work every day and says conditions on the southwest road are getting worse.

“It’s gone from day to night. All of a sudden there are just potholes everywhere,” she says.

Ish is one of many Calgary residents who have probably noticed a surge of potholes tearing up the city’s aging streets.

But as spring approaches, this pothole problem is bound to get even worse. That’s why researchers at the University of Calgary are trying to design a more durable, polymer-modified asphalt that can withstand heavy traffic and resist water damage.

Water damage is a huge problem, says Lynne Cowe Falls, who is a civil engineering professor at the Schulich School of Engineering and an expert on pavement and infrastructure management.

“We’re trying to make pavement flex so it doesn’t crack,” says Falls. “Because once it cracks the water is going in.”

The polymer-modified pavement remains stiff during warm weather, while retaining some elasticity during colder months. This flexibility helps prevent cracks from forming, so water can’t seep in. That way the asphalt remains strong and doesn’t cave-in under repeated wear and tear.

Polymer-modified pavement has been tested in some parts of Calgary’s downtown and on many city bridges.

 
 
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