Get off my tail, there's a pothole!
Engineers pave way toward better roads
February 28, 1996
Web posted at: 6:45 p.m. EST
From Correspondent Al Hinman
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- For those who live in
cities where potholes dot the streets like craters dot the
moon, hope may be on the way.
Civil engineers at Philadelphia's Drexel University are
researching ways to build the roads of tomorrow better.
New composite materials of carbon and high-tech fibers could
replace steel reinforcement rods in roads and bridges,
eliminating much of road deterioration caused by
Instead of today's asphalt or concrete surfaces, future
highways could be coated with durable new water-resistant
coatings, making potholes a thing of the past. Some of
today's better-built bridges already practice these solutions
by putting tension on paving sections, which keeps water out.
"It's an engineering solution, not a scientific solution,"
says Joseph Martin at Drexel University.
However, the fight to improve potholes is nothing new. Our
colonial forefathers were constantly patching roads. In fact,
it's believed the first potholes date back to Roman times,
when potters dug up hunks from the clay roads -- hence the
Many of today's potholes are caused by water that seeps
through the pavement, then expands as it freezes, breaking up
the road, explains engineer Daniel Clark.
Drexel's Martin is convinced engineers already have the basic
technology needed to build tomorrow's better roads.
However, Martin estimates the improved roads cost about 20
percent more to build, which is a lot of money in the
increasingly tight budgets of most highway planners.
But until that future date when motorists are willing to pay
more for fewer potholes, or some engineer comes up with a
low-cost, pothole-free road, street crews will keep on
patching -- and motorists will keep on grumbling.