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1/13/2023 - A Reminder About Potholes
The Freeze-Thaw Cycle and Potholes

As you're aware, this area of New England has frequent freeze-thaw cycles throughout the winter months which are detrimental to our infrastructure. Coupled with rain and snow events, the freeze-thaw cycles cause movement within the subbase and asphalt wearing courses of pavement. This can result in the loss of structural integrity which is the cause of potholes.

Generally speaking, a section of road that has developed potholes will continue to do so until permanent repairs are completed. If you’re traveling these roadway sections on a daily basis we recommend driving with caution. We work diligently to address these issues and continually monitor these areas. The asphalt plants in this area only operate seasonally and are closed during the winter months. This creates logistical challenges as the pothole repair materials available to us during the winter months are mostly temporary. Under certain conditions, these patches are short lived. In fact, it’s very common to fill potholes in the same area several times over the course of the winter.

Pothole Severity

The following should help clarify the significance of the various types of potholes. Potholes are generally defined on an index of severity which stipulates the level of repair required:

·         A low severity pothole consists of a surface wearing course distress of 1.5 inches or less in depth, doesn’t pose a safety hazard, and should be monitored for repair.

·         A medium severity pothole is 1.5 inches to approximately 3.5 inches in depth, has not exposed the gravel subbase materials, poses a slight safety hazard, and requires remedial repairs.

·         A high severity pothole is greater than 3.5 inches in depth, has exposed the gravel subbase materials, poses a safety hazard, and requires repair as soon as practicable.


Low Profile Tires and Potholes

One of the difficult issues that we face in regard to the traveling public is the growing popularity of low profile tires, which has caused a dramatic increase in the number of pothole damage complaints. What are low profile tires? By definition they have a much shallower sidewall and tend to be wider than regular tires. When the sidewall of the tire is less than 55 percent of the tire width, the tire is considered low profile. To identify what type of tire you have on your vehicle, take a look at the three sizing numbers found on the sidewall of your tire. The middle number represents the aspect ratio, which is the pertinent number.  Any tire with an aspect ratio of less than 55 is considered a low profile tire. For example, a tire size of 235 / 45 / 18 conveys an aspect ratio of “45,” which identifies it as a low profile tire.

When it comes to pothole damage, the main difference between low profile and regular tires is the height of the sidewall. The reduced sidewall height of low profile tires greatly reduces the ability of the tire to absorb impacts from potholes, curbs and other road hazards, and increases the chances of a flat tire, as well as wheel and rim damage. These are some of the several safety issues to consider when using low profile tires during the winter months in New England. Included below is a generalized statement which can be found in tire and auto manufacturers owner’s manuals. Please refer to NHTSA Technical Report DOT HS 811 797 if you would like to look into this issue in further detail:


Many new vehicles come equipped from the factory with high performance and/or low aspect ratio tires. Generally, these tires provide increased vehicle handling capability, but may also have engineering trade-offs associated with their design. Low aspect ratio tires, with reduced sidewall height, may be more susceptible to damage from potholes, road hazards, and other objects such as curbs. This is true for the wheels as well. Therefore, as with all other tires, it is important to drive with care and maintain proper inflation pressure and load conditions.

Just as the Town is obliged to provide an expected pavement level of service, it is also important that the traveling public is knowledgeable in the operational details of their vehicle(s), as noted above, and acts in a responsible manner. 

Reporting Potholes

Potholes can be reported by emailing or by calling the Public Works office at 203-794-8549.