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Pothole : Chickenpox on roads- Issues around the World. Is it Common?

Is Pothole issue only in India? 

Is pothole an issue around the world?

Is it common in developed and advanced countries too?

Is Pothole is a subject of concern in politics, public and media in most countries?

The answer to all the above question is evidently known. Almost all the countries be it developed / developing / emerging or any other stage of its evolution, pothole on the roads is a common issue everywhere.

On an average at least 3 to 4 times a month, the media talks about pothole issues in most of the countries. It is higher in countries like India, but it is also a common news point in countries like UK, USA, Australia, and many other known countries where infrastructure is lot better. There are thousands who die because of pothole roads and every election campaigns around the world, this is a common point of debate and expectation. Its a dangerous chickenpox disease on our roads that needs proper care and treatment. 

The only good thing is that there are many public and private parties who are involved on a large scale basis to see to it its reduced / fixed in many countries. The PWD Public works department / road authorities in many countries have strict monitoring and penalties for non-maintenance of roads and fix potholes.

Having traveled to many countries over the last 2 decades, there is a constant focus and increase in coming up with better and least maintenance roads and infrastructure. It seems to be one of the constant pain to public, governments and contractors that they are using a very old and traditional method of managing and maintaining roads. One of them in Malaysia mentioned that their way of pavement and asphalting is almost 60-year-old method. Just that the paving, milling machine is bit improvised.

They still must wait for trucks to get the hot asphalt and wait for cleaning of milling waste and manually lay roads and impact live traffic commutation. This has probably been the same method and issue over 75 years or more.

If we draw a parallel to chickenpox treatment and pothole treatment, we can learn many ways to solve the issue. We need many precautionary immunizations and shots which will enable the chickenpox not to crop up. A similar preventive maintenance is needed more than just symptomatic curative approach. 

When we dig deeper and question, why is this a global issue. Is it that we don’t still have a great method, material, intent, or technology to address this road and pothole issue? As I research about latest technologies, materials and methods, there are some major changes that are done both in experimental stage and in live states in some parts of the world. These innovative changes are going to make a difference in the way our roads are laid and maintained. There are surely many methods for fixing pothole issues around the world people are working towards.

The challenge as I see is in Change management and People acceptance of new and better models. This change does call for both mental acceptance and investment time, money, and energy in understanding and incorporating newer methods. There are  many examples that I can quote where people are working towards not wanting to have these changes, as it would impact their current method of money laundering and lobby process. There are many whose comforts on manufacturing, dealing with officials, training and learning new method, procuring new materials and many other emotional discomforts hinder new methods to sink in fast.

There are some who are progressive and adapting to new age methods. Be it use of plastics as an alternate to bitumen, or Solar-powered 'smart' roads could zap snow & ice instead of pavement of roads, which can generate electricity and supply for public and road usages. There many other new age methods like :

  • Warm Recycled Mix (WRM)

  • Cool Pavements

  • New Generation Stabilizers

  • Crack Free Concrete

  • Bio concrete or Self- Healing Concrete

  • Precast Concrete Pavements

  • Geopolymer Concrete

  • Studies on Super Single Tyres 

These methods and technology have been well studied and researched and some already implemented. There are also roads that are made to Glow in the dark, Interactive lighting, Wind powered lights, Electric priority lanes, Solar roadways, and many other disruptive technologies. However, in most countries including India there is not much visibility of any of the new and innovative method of roads management. The need to understand these new technologies is far higher now, than a decade back.

The demand-supply curve for our roads usage is exponential and not linear in growth. The roads which were built for smaller density and non-heavy vehicle traffic, now must bear many heavy traffic vehicles and extremely high density of travellers. The life of road which was planned for atleat 5 years, is now less than 1 year. Sometimes even less. But during this time, potholes emerges so often and fast like chickenpox on the roads.

Pothole technology has also evolved and improved over the last few decades, however, adaptation to these have been nothing less to road technologies. There are:

  • Method for automated assessment of potholes, cracks, and patches from road surface video clips,

  • Mobile apps to capture any vibrations during travel and map them for others notification and warning on google maps.

  • Cold patch based pothole filling Jet patcher / Python vehicles which are fitted with tools and machines which can fix pothole in minutes just by 1 person.

  • There is also a video show casing a liquid based pothole filling which is carried in a vehicle, a yellow colored liquid is poured and using a heat plate, make that liquid solidify and make it commutable. Though many claim this to be fiction and hoax, there may be a liquid that someone is working towards fixing potholes.

  • Several repair techniques: throw-and-roll, semi-permanent, spray injection, and edge seal are prevalent in pothole fixing.    

Very interesting method many countries are adapting is making an artistic representation on the potholes and getting the attention of the authorities to fix them. Some of them have gone extreme in painting the politician’s faces, some highlighting environmental concern and many in peaceful representations. All for getting attention of people so that it gets fixed. Many places it has worked, but many have taken this as fun and left without any action.

(Sources of these images are from google and relevant websites)

With all these unique innovative approaches which are available, experimented and used in some places, there is need to take this pothole issue seriously and address them. Globally this pothole menace is a great cause of concern, fatalities, and environmental damage.

Let us put an effort to address this to whatever extent we can in our own limited ways and methods.

This article is only to highlight the vastness and seriousness of the pothole issue.

I would like to seek your views and inputs from your experiences from what you have seen around the world, any unique methods, approaches, and technologies to treat this POTHOLE ChickenPox.

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