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updated: 7/6/2012 5:46 AM

Moisture, heat a recipe for buckling roads in the suburbs

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There have been a handful of reports of roads buckling in the suburbs over the past few days, and with consistently high temperatures and scattered rain, it is likely that more roads will continue to be damaged.

Illinois Department of Transportation spokesman Guy Tridgell said there were about half a dozen cases of buckled roads in the Chicago area in the last two days, but none of them were serious.

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Trouble areas included Algonquin Road west of Ela Road in Hoffman Estates; Golf Road at Basswood Street in Schaumburg; and Algonquin Road west of Elgin Road in Algonquin. Roads in Oakbrook and Arlington Heights also were affected.

"I would not term them as severe," Tridgell said, adding that none of them caused accidents and they were all repaired in three to six hours. "It's basically been a lane or two at a time."

The reasoning behind why roads are buckling is simple physics, explained John Kos, director of transportation and operations for DuPage County.

"Things expand in the heat," he said. "It's just a matter of what gives."

Tridgell added that roads exposed to both moisture and excessive heat are more susceptible to buckling.

Kos said typically road buckling in the suburbs is "a matter of a few inches," and usually more inconvenient than hazardous.

Kos said he received only one report of a road buckling in recent days, in Darien.

"We hope there are no problems, but people have to be patient if there are," Kos said of buckling that is likely to occur as the oppressive heat continues.

"The situation is much worse if there has been some rain," he said, adding that moisture accelerates the process of expansion and contraction. "It's essentially water boiling, if you will."

For that reason, it is more common to see buckling occur on arterial streets than on expressways, where drainage is generally better and the pavement is thicker, Tridgell said.

He said I-DOT is "certainly expecting" more roads to buckle in the coming days, but where and how severe damage will be is only speculation.

"After several days of prolonged heat, the pavement will fail," he said, adding that buckling often occurs later in the day, after the road has been in the sun for many hours.

He said there is no way to predict or take precautions against road buckling.

Age usually don't make a road more prone to heat damage, but certain materials, like concrete, are more likely to buckle.

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