Street Infrastructure: Potholes and Street Cracking

Broomfield Public Works Department and our Street Division take great pride in providing vital services for the community’s growth, health, safety, comfort and quality of life. The Streets Division is made up of five functions - Road & Bridge (asphalt maintenance, potholes, crack sealing), Street Cleaning & Drainage, Traffic Signs & Marking, Traffic Signals and Pavement Management (asphalt preservation and mitigation). One of the vital services provided by the Streets Division is to provide a safe and dependable street system.

Current Street Inventory and Response Time Frame

PublicWorks-Streets-Potholes_Potholes in StreetSince 2000, the City and County of Broomfield’s infrastructure has and continues to experience significant growth. In 2000, Broomfield maintained 144 miles of streets. Fast forward to 2023, Broomfield now has 284 miles. The Broomfield Street Division is capable of filling 20 to 40 potholes a day on average depending on size and location with one pothole truck and crew. Public Works strives to repair reported potholes within 72 hours. Staff are exploring additional resources for 2024 to expand our capacity to align with recent street inventory growth.

The Whys of Potholes, Cracks, and Traffic Loads 

It is important to understand how a pothole forms and the effects a harsh winter and wet spring can have on our streets. A pothole is a common road surface defect that forms when the asphalt or pavement undergoes a series of damaging processes. 

PublicWorks-Streets-Potholes_Crackseal OperationInitial Pavement Deterioration

Potholes often begin as small cracks on the road surface. These cracks can be caused by various factors such as heavy traffic loads, aging of the pavement, or natural settling of the underlying soil.

Water Infiltration

Water is the primary culprit behind the expansion of cracks and the formation of potholes. When cracks develop, they provide an entry point for water to seep into the underlying layers of the pavement. This water can come from rainfall, melting snow or irrigation.

Freeze-Thaw Cycles

PublicWorks-Street-Potholes_Freeze ThawIn regions with harsh winters, the presence of water in the cracks becomes particularly problematic. During freezing temperatures, the water within the cracks freezes and expands. This expansion exerts pressure on the surrounding pavement, widening the cracks.

PublicWorks-Streets-Potholes_Pothole Traffic Impact

Traffic Loads

The continuous passage of vehicles over weakened pavement exacerbates the damage. The weight and movement of vehicles cause the weakened pavement to break and disintegrate further. This process is accelerated during periods of heavy traffic or when vehicles with substantial axle loads pass over the cracks.

Wet Spring

Following a harsh winter, a wet spring can worsen the pothole problem. The increased precipitation saturates the pavement and subsoil, adding more water to the existing cracks. This leads to more frequent freeze-thaw cycles and further deterioration of the pavement.

Winter Maintenance

PublicWorks-Streets-Potholes_Pothole Winter MaintenanceSnow plows and ice-melting chemicals, such as ice slicer, are commonly used to keep roads safe during winter. However, these measures can also contribute to pothole formation. The use of de-icing chemicals can penetrate the cracks and corrode the underlying layers, further weakening the pavement structure.

Pothole Formation

In summary, potholes form when cracks develop in the pavement, allowing water to infiltrate and weaken the structure. Harsh winters and wet springs exacerbate the problem when traffic load is combined with freeze-thaw cycles and adding more water infiltration.

Who Takes Care of State Highways and Traffic Lights?

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) is responsible for all street surface repairs and maintenance including potholes, snow control, weed mowing and for signal maintenance/timing on state highways within Broomfield's city limits, which includes Hwy 121, Hwy 128, Hwy 287 (a.k.a. Wadsworth Boulevard), 120th Avenue, and Hwy 7. Please contact CDOT directly with any questions or concerns.

How can Residents Help?

Community engagement has been and continues to be critical to the overall health of our community and part of the Broomfield fabric. Residents play an important role as the eyes of the community with helping staff locate potholes. 

The quickest way to report potholes is the use of the resources below: