CHOKEPOINTS

Stretch of SR 11 Highway buckles under extreme heat

Jul 9, 2024, 11:13 AM

sr 11 buckles heat...

Concrete panels under the asphalt of State Route 11 buckling due to the extreme heat. (Photo courtesy of WSDOT)

(Photo courtesy of WSDOT)

The Washington Department of Transportation (WSDOT) had to shut down State Route 11 (SR 11) to just one lane July 8 after concrete panels under the pavement had buckled due to the region’s recent extreme heat.

Both north and southbound traffic had to be alternated in the one open lane as WSDOT crews worked to repair the road, causing backups and delays.

More from Chokepoints: ‘Convincing’ Good To Go! toll scam rears its ugly head

“We had traffic alternating through a single lane for several hours while our crews made a temporary repair overnight,” Madison Sehlke, public information officer for WSDOT, told KOMO News. “They will make a more permanent repair once temperatures cool.”

The stretch of road this affected is located just south of where SR 11 crosses Pulver Road outside of Burlington.

This recent phenomenon of Washington roads buckling and cement cracking under intense summer conditions has occurred more recently as of late, with WSDOT documenting what the department found during the Pacific Northwest’s record-breaking heat dome in 2021.

As temperatures fluctuate, the slabs of concrete making up America’s roads expand and contract. Highways and other heavy-use thoroughfares generally leave just enough room in between the slabs of concrete so the materials can expand in hot weather and contract in colder weather.

More on WA roads: Semitruck driver suffers serious injuries after crash

But when a region reaches previously unforeseen temperatures, more slack may be needed for the concrete. When the room between the slabs runs out, the road buckles and damages itself.

“When it gets really, really abnormally hot, like it hasn’t been that hot before in quite a long time, it expands so much that it runs into the adjacent slab,” Steve Muench, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Washington (UW), said, according to The Verge. “There’s no more room to expand, they just push up against each other and then they pop up.”

For roads made up of asphalt instead of concrete, a whole new set of issues can potentially arise as asphalt is made up of viscoelastic material, meaning it can soften in extreme heat.

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

Chokepoints

ballard closures...

Chris Sullivan

Sullivan: Closures are clogging Ballard, and will be for next two months

Getting through Ballard along 15th Avenue Northwest can be hard enough as it is, and that was before the closures.

4 hours ago

I-405 multi-car collision...

Frank Sumrall

Multiple lanes on I-405 North closed near Bellevue due to multi-car collision

Multiple lanes on Interstate 405 (I-405) heading north are closed near Coal Creek Parkway after a multi-car collision.

4 hours ago

Photo: The Washington State Patrol is cracking down on people who cut in ferry lines....

James Lynch

Don’t be that person: State troopers fine ferry line cutters $145

Have you ever been frustrated by a driver who cut in line at a ferry terminal? Now the Washington State Patrol is cracking down.

20 hours ago

5-car crash sr 900...

Frank Sumrall

Mustang causes 5-car crash on SR 900 after veering onto oncoming traffic

A 5-car crash on State Route 900 (SR 900) in Renton Sunday led to four injured individuals, a five-hour highway backup and a brush fire.

1 day ago

I-405 Eastside...

Chris Sullivan

I-405 closed, creating traffic nightmare on the Eastside

This is not the weekend to hit the Eastside because Interstate 405 (I-405), south of Bellevue because, is closed.

3 days ago

Image: SR 99 north in Seattle was closed due to a massive fire on Tuesday, July 9, 2024....

Steve Coogan

SR 99 north in Seattle reopens after major brush fire closed it for hours

All lanes on State Route 99 north end at the 1st Ave Bridge in Seattle were blocked Tuesday due to a fire. It reopened Wednesday morning.

7 days ago

Stretch of SR 11 Highway buckles under extreme heat