Pavement buckling causes traffic delays in parts of southern Wisconsin Thursday

LAKE DELTON, Wis. — This week’s heat is starting to have an effect on the roads, with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation reporting multiple instances of pavement buckling on roads in the southern part of the state Thursday.

Earlier in the day, the left lane of eastbound Highway 12 near Lake Delton had to be closed due to a pavement buckle. The closure was first reported at about 9:30 a.m. near mile marker 213.5. The Sauk County Highway Department was able to make repairs to the road and reopen the lane at about 10:50 a.m.

Another pavement buckle was reported around 3:50 p.m. in the right lane of northbound U.S. Highway 51 at Voges Road near McFarland. All lanes had reopened as of 5:40 p.m.

Earlier this week, the DOT warned drivers of the possibility of pavement buckling as we’ve seen this extended stretch of unseasonably hot and humid weather since Wisconsin’s roads are susceptible to breaks in the pavement when temperatures quickly go from cool — like they were last week — to hot.


Barry Paye, WisDOT’s director of technical services, said Thursday’s reports of buckling pavement are early but that the timing is driven by climate.

“If you have a cold, wet spring and a sudden heatwave, it’s that first heat wave that really gets us,” he said. “A lot of times, the last couple years, that first heatwave hasn’t happened until around Memorial Day or early June, so that’s usually when we see it. This year, obviously we went from almost winter straight into summer here and skipped spring, so here we are.”

Highway 12 in Sauk County is a particularly problematic spot for road buckling. Several pavement buckles were reported in that portion of Highway 12 last year, including reported incidents at mile markers 214, 215, 216 and 221.

Officials said last year they would be looking at construction logs and material lab tests to try to find patterns as to why the pavement buckled so frequently in that area.

On Thursday, Paye said the state is still looking into the issue but that part of the problem appears to lie with the type of aggregate used in the concrete.

“It’s a local type of quartzite that tends to have very expansive properties, thermal expansion,” he said. “The way I quickly explain it is like siding on your house; you hear it shrink in the winter and crack and in the summer, it expands. The Baraboo quartzite tends to have very expansive properties, so that was the locally available material to build that road and that was what’s in there.”

Despite the issues, Paye said a road rebuild is not likely the solution. Instead, the state is looking at ways to help relieve stress on the road, such as sawing extra expansion joints.

The DOT recommends checking 511 for the latest on any incidents or delays before heading out the door. You can also report serious pavement issues you encounter by calling 911, but you should be prepared to provide specific location information if you call.

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