Winter potholes on Hancock bridge get state’s attention


Over the course of this winter, the 80-plus year old U.S. 522 Bridge over the Potomac River, connecting Maryland and West Virginia, has been pocked with a wide variety of potholes ranging from small and shallow to medium and deep.

Potholes are formed when moisture seeps into tiny crevices in pavement, both asphalt and concrete.

That moisture collects and freezes, causing the pavement to expand. The weight of the traffic puts pressure on the area and when the temperature rises and the ice thaws, the pavement contracts and it forms a pothole.

The freeze-thaw cycle is predominant during the winter to spring period and subsequently when most potholes appear.

On Thursday afternoon, March 8, The Hancock News contacted the Maryland Department of Transportation SHA about the pothole situation on the bridge for this story.

Within an hour of the notification, the potholes had been repaired.

MDOT SHA Communications Director Charlie Gischlar said prior to the paper asking about the bridge, the Hagerstown shop was not aware of the hazards.

When notified of potholes by highway users or through proactive pothole patrols after winter storms, Gischlar said the MDOT SHA try to fill potholes within a business day, “but as we enter the transitional season between winter and spring, when potholes are more prevalent, it may take longer.”

The weather dictates what type of type of material they would use.

Gischlar said in cold weather, the MDOT SHA uses a cold mix, which he describes as basically what would be purchased at a hardware store to patch a driveway.

“Cold mix is temporary as hot mix asphalt, which is used for resurfacing projects, which is a permanent repair,” he said. “Hot mix requires steady temperatures at 50 degrees or greater to adhere properly to the surface.”

Because of temperature constraints, Gischlar said asphalt plants are generally closed during the winter, which is a reason hot mix is not available during the winter.

“Our Hagerstown Shop has something called a ‘hot box’ that heats cold mix and we are finding that it is a more thorough repair,” Gischlar said.

Asphalt is the most common repair material, but bridge decks are concrete.

“We may patch with asphalt, but if a hole gets too severe, we may close a lane on the bridge, form the hole out and apply concrete, which can be covered and heated as it cures to proper strength,” Gischlar said.

With the proactive patrols, he said the MDOT SHA tries to get to all potholes before they get that severe.

To report potholes to the MDOT SHA, Gischlar said people can visit their website,