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Drivesmart column: Ruts in the pavement

In the wet weather what he reports seeing is the ruts in the right lane are holding up to 20 mm of standing water
Tim Schewe

A reader reports that he commutes on Highway 19 daily. The road has been maintained by filling the cracks with tar rather than repaving it. In the wet weather what he reports seeing is the ruts (worn into the driven part) in the right lane are holding up to 20 mm of standing water sometimes for hundreds of metres at a time.

He finds that pulling into the left lane provides a safer drive even at 30 km/h below the posted limit.

Channelization was the word I used as a collision investigator to describe ruts in the pavement caused by the passage, over time, of many vehicles. These ruts can be quite deep as you describe and the presence of standing water can be a significant hazard for hydroplaning.

It is often not necessary to drive in the left lane, simply moving a small distance to the right or left in the right lane will move your tires out of the ruts and out of the water. Of course, your solution of moving into the less travelled left lane requires less attention to lane position.

The BCGEU has published a video about B.C. highway maintenance standards on YouTube. The video does not talk about channelization but does address other common highway defects and conditions.

It is easy to identify a highway problem these days. DriveBC has an interactive map to help you locate the road maintenance contractor responsible and notify them of the problem.

In addition to the road maintenance contractors, one can Tweet to TranBC.

Email addresses can be found on the B.C. Government website for MOTI General Inquiries, the Minister of Transportation and the Deputy Minister of Transportation.

The tar strips that you mention are put there to seal the pavement surface to keep water out rather than to repair the ruts. Once water enters the cracks that open in the pavement surface, freeze/thaw cycles can quickly break up the pavement even further. Hot tar or other compounds can seal these cracks effectively and keep the water away from the roadbed.

The only effective repair for these ruts is to repave the highway.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit