DOT official: Road buckles from heat, rain

DULUTH -- Extreme heat, a lot of rain and a lack of funding are all to blame for the buckling of Buford Highway, which caused the road to be closed during Thursday's morning rush hour, a transportation official said.

The intense temperatures, coupled with an abundance of rain, caused the concrete underneath the roadway to swell, raising the driving surface two feet across both lanes of the road, state Department of Transportation spokeswoman Teri Pope said.

The damage affected a stretch 28 feet wide, 42 feet long and two feet deep between McGinnis Ferry Road and Sugarloaf Parkway in Duluth.

Maintenance crews began the repair work just after midnight Thursday morning and reopened the road at 10:57 a.m. -- an hour later than expected because the heat caused the newly poured asphalt to take extra time to cool, Pope said.

Pope said the problem may have been detected during routine maintenance of the road, but a budget crisis has kept the department from frequent repavings.

"We would have likely caught this before it got this bad," she said.

While the department had to purchase 40 tons of asphalt to fix the road, Pope said she is not sure what the cost of the repairs is.

Crews will work next week to complete the repairs, including laying a top layer of asphalt and installing permanent striping.

"It's going to be a long, hot summer, I'm afraid," Pope said, noting that the extreme heat could mean another buckled road. "We will respond to emergency situations as they crop up."