Engineer explains why roads buckle this time of year

By: Kevin Hurd/Andrew Fefer Email
By: Kevin Hurd/Andrew Fefer Email
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TOWN OF WHEATON, Wis. (WEAU)-- Crews were called out at 12:45 p.m. Friday to fix a section of Highway 29 after it buckled near 30th Street just east of Elk Mound.

Crews shut down the left lane to traffic, then closed the right lane a couple hours later.

On Thursday, a section of Highway 53 also buckled at Melby Street.

More than likely your drive will be a smooth one but there are rare cases where you will come across a buckle in the road.

Eau Claire City Engineer David Solberg explains how things are supposed to go.

"The concrete pavement has joints in it and as long as it expands, and there is room in the joints you won't have buckling," he said.

But sometimes that is not always the case.

"When temperatures get high enough or incompressible rocks get in the joint and prevents it from expanding, then you start to see the buckling like you do during the summer time in Wisconsin.

Basically, Solberg says there are two reasons why roads buckle -- either temperatures get to hot or unbreakable rocks get stuck in small joins in the road, preventing it from expanding when it gets too warm.

While Solberg could not speak specifically about Highway 29 and Highway 53, he did says roads like Farwell Street and Barstow Street in Eau Claire are made from concrete just like you'd be driving on the highway.

"It's subject to heating and expanding just like highway pavements are," he added.

We asked if the way a road was built could have anything to do with buckling.

"The construction methods have to do with scaling and cracking rather than buckling; buckling is primarily caused by heat or incompressible solids getting into the joints and not allowing pavements to expand like it should," he added.

Friday's high was 84 degrees, not exactly a heat wave, but still Solberg says there is that chance for roads to buckle.

"There are times where as you saw this spring where it was random, we were no where near 90 degrees or 95 degrees," he said.

For the second time in two days, a stretch of highway in Chippewa County has buckled.

This time it happened around 12:45 Friday afternoon on State Highway 29 near 30th Street, which is east of Elk Mound. Crews shut down the left lane to traffic, then closed the right lane a couple hours later.

The temperature in Eau Claire was between 78 and 80 at that time. Another stretch of highway on U.S. 53 near Melby St. buckled on Thursday afternoon.

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