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High temperatures causing pavement blowups

July 22, 2011
Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald - AMES– Motorists traveling in Iowa should be aware that the mercury might not be the only thing to rise during the sweltering summer heat. Pavement blowups occur when thermal expansion forces the pavement to buckle and shatter. A number of such incidents have been occurring this week.

“The wet weather in parts of the state combined with the extreme heat is a recipe for pavement blow ups,” says John Selmer, director of the Iowa Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Statewide Operations Bureau.

In a typical year, Iowa DOT maintenance equipment operators spend 2,000 to 4,000 hours making temporary repairs of pavement blowups and another 6,000 hours replacing these pavement sections, costing an average of $400,000 annually. Many of the blowups only result in a spall, pothole or small chunks of concrete lying around the pavement joints, but they must still be repaired.

Unlike scheduled maintenance, pavement blowups occur spontaneously and motorists receive no advance warning. Once a blowup is reported, it takes time to erect a work zone and notify the public.

The Iowa DOT urges motorists to pay special attention to pavement surfaces when driving during afternoons with 90-degree or hotter temperatures. Use caution and reduce your speed when approaching broken pavement areas.

Motorists who witness a pavement blowup are asked to contact the nearest law enforcement agency to ensure traffic is routed around the blowup until work zone signage and repair crews are on the scene.

For the latest statewide travel information, including the locations of roadway repair activities, visit or call 511 or 800-288-1047.


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