The extreme heat around the state has started to diminish, but over the last month we’ve seen some intense temperatures which have caused some buckling on important roadways. KSL News reported earlier this month about a buckling problem in the Draper area which shut down a major section of road around 11400 South and 500 West. KSL stated: “Road crews cannot predict when or where that kind of damage will happen, but they expect more of it in the coming weeks.” UDOT recognized that this specific area was becoming a bit of a “speed bump” anyway and the 100 plus degree temperatures took it to the next level.
When temperatures hit around 100 degrees, it means the roadways are likely getting up to between 120 and 130 degrees, possibly even more. Heat makes concrete expand, but heat like that can be too much for it to handle, especially if the roadway is on the older end of its life. Additionally, over time, rocks and debris can get into the joints of the concrete which prevents the concrete from shifting back and forth. This creates the perfect storm, forcing the concrete upward, and buckling is inevitable. Without room to shift, the pressure builds up with nowhere to go. For this specific case in Draper, crews quickly closed the road and cut into the expansion joints as a way to relieve the pressure on the concrete panels. Then they cut out all the crumbled concrete and poured a rapid-set concrete product to get drivers back on the road quickly.
Buckling roads are dangerous to traffic. Sharp ridges from the buckling or broken chunks are hazardous for the traffic flows and requires immediate attention. For such a busy section of road, this project needed to be addressed quickly. UDOT is asking people to pay attention to the roadways for indications of issues and to report them so they can be addressed before any damages or injuries occur. Jake Brown, UDOT’s Region 2 South Area Supervisor asks citizens to: "Keep your eye out. If you see any of those [concerns], contact highway patrol dispatch." He calls this season “blow up season” and is well aware of the dangers these high temperatures can have on our roads. Utah Highway Patrol’s dispatch number is 801-887-3800, however if you notice an inevitable emergency situation, don’t hesitate to call 911.
Back in 2021 during a similar heatwave, Utah saw at least three cases of buckling around the Wasatch Front, all occurring within one week. Although buckling is more common with older concrete, extreme heat takes its toll on concrete of all ages. Even well-made concrete pavements can buckle under extreme temperatures, and areas with more wear and tear are even more susceptible to this problem. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, it’s the 100 deadliest days on Utah’s roads because of all the people traveling. Most crashes occur due to human error, however, the hazards on the roads certainly can play a role. Use caution, stay alert, and if you see something concerning, report it right away.