Seeing Early Pavement Buckling? The Heat May Be To Blame

Bob Roberts
June 01, 2018 - 8:03 am

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- If you’re trying to figure out why pavement buckled over the past week in about a dozen locations, you’re not alone.  Even highway engineers wonder why pavement heaves in one area but not others.

Pavement buckles are generally something Chicago-area residents associate with July and August, not Memorial Day. 

A common thread runs through the buckling on Illinois 59, in Naperville, on Kirk Road in Kane County, and at five locations in three suburban Cook County communities – Schaumburg, Wheeling and Chicago Heights. Cook County Highway Superintendent John Yonan said all have one trait in common - they’re concrete roadways. But Yonan said there’s no way to make predictions. 

"There's a such thing as thermal expansion, that is the science that is moving this, but where and how and what is something that continues to cause engineers to scratch their head, as to where and how and why," he said.

Yonan said new concrete is just as likely to blow up as old concrete.  He said he has seen curbs, gutters and streets that have failed in less than a year, but said he can show you 30-year-old concrete elsewhere that looks as good as new.

"You will find in some instances a brand new roadway in the last few years, in fact, a few projects you can drive around and look, curbs and gutters are often the first things that pop," he said.

Yonan concedes that the buckling is early, but said pavement buckling and extreme heat go hand-in-hand, no matter what the calendar reads.