The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

March 21, 2014

Remedies for our roads | PennDOT evaluating 'Pothole Killer,' 'Beet Heet'

JOHNSTOWN — Perhaps the only people who herald the arrival of pothole season are tire salesmen and front-end alignment specialists.

The mind-jarring, frame-bending, suspension-pounding craters have started to pop up around the Greater Johnstown region.

But a Philadelphia area company, Patch Management of Fairless Hills, has come up with a formidable opponent for potholes, dubbed “The Pothole Killer.” The process blasts a heated, oil-based formula into the holes, followed by a top coat of aggregate that is smoothed to match the existing road surface. The oil-based formula is a secret, much like the blend of 11 herbs and spices that Colonel Sanders developed for his fried chicken. But it is the glue that holds the entire process together.

The compound apparently is far superior to the traditional cold-patch material that PennDOT relies on to fill potholes during cold weather.

“Cold patch is a temporary fill,” Steve Cowan, public information officer for PennDOT’s District 11 in Allegheny County, told our Kathy Mellott for a story in Monday’s editions. “Sometimes the cold patch material can pop out after a few days, or a few hours.”

The preferred hot-patch material is not available to road crews until area asphalt plants begin production, which is usually not until mid- to late April.

That’s why “The Pothole Killer” has been in such high demand. PennDOT has experimented with the machinery and formula in 12 counties so far and is evaluating the cost-to-effectiveness of the process.

Meanwhile, PennDOT crews have been doing their best to keep up with the cavities.

“I expect this year to be worse than last year,” Cambria County maintenance unit supervisor Dennis Mehora said. “With the real hard freezes and the thaw cycles, we’re going to see more this year than we’ve probably seen since the early 1980s.”

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Another experiment that PennDOT is evaluating is its use of “Beet Heet” as a deicer on highways.

“We have seen positive results using the product at temperatures below 15 degrees where salt is not as effective,” said PennDOT spokesman Richard Kirkpatrick.

The product was used on Route 422 in Butler County, Kirkpatrick said, and will be tested on highways in the Clarion County Maintenance Unit.

“Beet Heet” is a mixture of 20 percent red-beet juice and 80 percent water-based salt brine and stays active in temperatures significantly lower than salt brine alone.

Ohio, Indiana and Missouri rely heavily on the concoction to treat their highways during the winter. And the Niagara region of Ontario has realized a 30 percent reduction in how much salt it uses during the winter now that it is using “organic liquid deicing.”

If “The Pothole Killer” and “Beet Heet” are proven that they can help Penn-DOT, perhaps our legislators can set aside some money from the transportation bill to buy more of the miracle cures. Anything that could extend the life of our highways is, in our opinion, worth the investment.

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