Road officials watch for pavement blowouts amid heat wave

ILLINOIS — Illinois’ roads are hot, increasing the chance of a phenomenon called a “blowout” that could result in blown tires, busted oil pans and worse.

This week’s heat, coupled with high humidity, creates the ideal conditions for asphalt to buckle. This results in extrusions in the road that can be high enough to pop a tire or damage a low-sitting vehicle.

“If it buckles and creates more of a ramp, you have the concern of losing control of the vehicle,” said Adam Weber, the Ashkum Township Highway Commissioner. “The reverse effect is it kicks an edge up that you can run into. You could make direct contact with your bumper and set your airbags off similar to what a front-end collision would be. It could even rip an oil pan off.”

Woodside Drive Freeport, Illinois road sign warning of loose gravel as repaving material appeared to be melting off the roadway lifting the gravel from the pavement. July 9, 2020.

Most of the roads that Weber manages are oil-and-chip, but he said overpasses and bridges pose a danger due to a joint connecting the bridge span and the ramp expanding in the same way a pavement blowout would.

Most of the blowouts occur on interstates and state roads, which are the responsibility of the Illinois Department of Transportation.


In Freeport it seems the weather may have already affected at least one road in the city.

Woodside Drive, which was repaved in September of last year, had a road sign warning of loose gravel.  The repaving material appeared to be melting off the roadway lifting the gravel from the pavement. In spots, the blacktop, or oil, caused a tire humming noise.

woodside fresh oil
Woodside Drive road work. September 25, 2019

“One of the hottest weeks of the year means the potential for pavement failures will increase,” Acting Illinois Transportation Secretary Omer Osman said. “At IDOT, we have the necessary staffing and materials in place to make repairs as quickly as possible. We ask the public to stay alert and avoid driving over buckled roads, if possible, while giving our crews plenty of room to work.”

Pavement failures can be reported to IDOT by calling 800-452-4368 or by reaching out to law enforcement via 911.

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