Cedar Rapids Snow Plow Drivers Slowing Down Due to Frost Heaves

By Dave Franzman, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- The deep frost that has caused a rash of water main breaks in eastern Iowa recently is creating another dilemma for Cedar Rapids snow plow drivers. It's forcing them to go slower when plowing due to the uneven pavement and potential damage to both equipment and road itself.

Craig Hanson, public works maintenance manager in Cedar Rapids, said drivers began noticing an unusual number of frost heave sections on roads last week. Frost heave is where the frost in the ground causes some parts of roadways to push up or others to subside. That creates large bumps in the roadways and often broken pavement.

Hanson said when drivers plow the main roads, they can typically go up to 35 miles per hour when pushing snow to the side. But with the unusual number of frost heave sections and bumps on roadways drivers have had to slow down. Hitting unexpected bumps in the road can damage both the plows and even the truck itself if hit hard enough. And it can also tear up the roadway.

Bill Holub, a Cedar Rapids plow driver with 26 years on the job, said he's never seen as many frost heaves as he has this winter while plowing. Holub said on main roads, often called arterials, he's slowed down to about half the speed he would normally go to avoid jolting himself and damaging his truck.

Hanson said the problem is most noticeable on the main roads. Drivers don't go as fast on the side streets when clearing because of cars usually parked along the side and other obstructions so the frost heaves there haven't made much difference. Hanson sent a memo to other city departments recently telling managers than the uneven roadways caused by frost underground is the reason snow plowing is now taking a big longer than it used to in Cedar Rapids.

Hanson said the uneven sections of road created by frost underground is often what creates potholes as the frost leaves, the pavement breaks up and rains begin.

Hanson said he didn't know if drivers and residents had noticed that the plowing is taking a bit longer that it did before. But he figured people should know there is a reason.
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