With the snow melting away, those travelling on Highway 16 (Hwy. 16) between Burns Lake and Houston have been experiencing an unusually bumpy ride, all thanks to the frost heave.
According to the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, frost heaves, caused by freeze/thaw cycles, are a common temporary seasonal issue with roads and highways. In the spring as temperatures rise, which has been the case for the region, water is released into the road base. This water often freezes again overnight, in what is called a freeze/thaw cycle.
When water in the road base freezes it expands upwards, creating a heave. This heave causes the pavement on the highway to bulge and crack.
“The ministry will be conducting surface repairs on Highway 16 between Houston to Burns Lake once weather permits,” said the ministry in an email to Black Press Media.
The ministry also said that the frost heaves are made worse when the previous or current shoulder season is particularly wet, as this causes more moisture in the road. Residents of the regions from Burns Lake to Houston saw one of the highest precipitation in history this past fall, making the frost heave even worse.
The ministry usually uses frost probes and beam trucks to monitor the frost levels in a road or highway, which helps them determine whether road restrictions are needed. At times, in order to further protect roadways, temporary road restrictions are placed to impose load restrictions on roads, or portions of roads that are vulnerable and weakened by excess water in the road base, said the ministry.
However, inspections on Hwy. 16 between Burns Lake and Houston are yet to begin. Depending on the extent of damage on certain sections of the highway, repairs on frost heaved sections of the highway usually involve patching, crack-sealing, and paving damaged sections. At times, ditching, brushing and culvert maintenance on highways are also done to improve the flow of water away from the road base.
“These activities are part of our seasonal maintenance and rehabilitation program, which will begin in late spring, as soon as weather permits,” said the ministry.