High temps buckle Delaware’s main highway to beach

A section of Delaware Route 1 near Milford was damaged by a “road heaving” incident that caused the roadway to buckle. The main route to Delaware’s beaches was repaired overnight and reopened early Friday morning. (DelDOT photo)

A section of Delaware Route 1 near Milford was damaged by a “road heaving” incident that caused the roadway to buckle. The main route to Delaware’s beaches was repaired overnight and reopened early Friday morning. (DelDOT photo)

It’s called “road heaving” when two pieces of concrete that expand under high temperatures and crash into each other, forcing the asphalt road surface to heave upwards. That’s what happened Thursday afternoon on southbound U.S. Route 1 near Milford in southern Delaware. Crews had to close some lanes overnight to repair the damage in time for the Friday beach rush and are on alert for more.

“This is Delaware’s primary north/south corridor, and any time we have an unexpected, unplanned event happen, it can cause significant congestion and traffic issues really up and down the state,” said Delaware Department of Transportation’s C.R. McLeod. “It can really snowball quickly.”

While roads are designed to allow for expanding and contracting depending on the season, sometimes the extreme temperature is too much.

“Sometimes during very extreme temperatures, both hot and cold, we can see this happen where really the road runs out of room to expand and you end up getting this pushing up of the road surface,” McLeod said.

While the problem in the pavement looks minor, he says for vehicles traveling at top speed, it’s a dangerous condition.

At first, DelDOT workers tried to flatten out the buckled section, but with even hotter temperatures forecast through the weekend, there were fears that the road could continue to push up and create an even more dangerous situation. Instead, crews excavated about a 10-foot section of the highway and filled it with about eight inches of asphalt to patch it temporarily. The roadway completely reopened around 6:30 Friday morning.

DelDOT always has extra crews on standby on the weekends, especially in the summer, ready to respond to incidents that could affect traffic, including road heaving.

“If someone does come across a large bump in the road that may not have been their previously, give us a call,” McLeod said. Drivers in Delaware can call #77 on their cell phone to report problems. “The likelihood that it could happen in other places as we endure this heat wave are certainly a possibility.”

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