Hot Weather Effects on Roads

Everyone looks forward to the longer, hotter days of summer, but those conditions have negative effects on our roads.

And with climate change contributing to an extended summer season and higher temperatures, a recent study by UMass Boston predicts temperature shifts will result in 60-80 days of weather over 90 degrees in the area by the end of the century. 

Boston, MA

Both pavement and concrete include materials that are susceptible to damage under sustained high temperatures that can cause buckling, putting drivers at risk. Not only is the risk to drivers a concern for communities, but the additional costs associated with repairing the roads and vehicles can also strain budgets.

Let’s take a look at the severity of heat damage to roadways over the past year and some actions being taken to alleviate its effects.


In June 2021, Wisconsin handled multiple reports of buckling due to heat waves: 

WEAU informed citizens of buckling on Highway 53 BYP and Clairemont Ave in Eau Claire after temperatures hit the mid-90s, setting new records at several weather-reporting stations across Wisconsin, including Eau Claire.

This year, the state started facing high temperatures a month earlier, as heat hit in May. 

Buckling on Clairemont Ave
Buckling on Clairemont Ave.; Photo credit: Eau Clair Police Dept.

NBC15 shared an instance of buckling in Madison, WI.  

Elsewhere in Wisconsin, pavement buckling forced an onramp to Interstate 90 in Columbia Co. in south-central Wisconsin to briefly close for repairs, while Interstate 41 near Neenah also had pavement buckling.

buckling pavement
Photo Credit: Eau Claire Police Department

A week later, additional buckling was reported by Channel 3000 in the Portage area record-breaking streak of May heat.

Road Maintenance Workers Repairing Road
Example of buckling on Highway 16 in Portage, Wis.; Photo credit: PORTAGE DAILY REGISTER ARCHIVES

High temperatures hit many other areas hard, this year and last. 


KUOW in the Puget Sound reported multiple instances of buckling on I-5. Luckily, construction crews were already dispatched and were redirected to address the buckling issue immediately.

pavement buckling in Everson, WA
Buckling in Everson, Washington, June 2021; Photo credit: WSDOT

Media outlet, KREM, reported Heat-related road woes: Pavement buckles on Highway 195 south of Rosalia

WSDOT East said the road is peeling in the westbound lanes. Crews will sand the road to keep it from peeling back further. Chelan County Public Works said it received reports of oil coming up on county roads. 

Highway 195 S in WA pavement buckling
Photo credit: WSDOT


KSL TV5 reported major buckling in Salt Lake City, UT due to 100+ degree temperatures last July.

The concrete contracts and expands, but never back to its original volume. Rocks and grit get in the joints which keeps the concrete from moving back and forth. Then heat expands the concrete and it buckles.


KOIN News covered a buckling that took place right outside someone’s front door.

Dayton residents Tiffany and Andrew Prather shared that they suddenly noticed the entire house shaking. After investigating the situation, they found a buckled road outside their property.


Dayton, OR road buckling damage
Photo credit: Tiffany and Andrew Prather

Options to Beat the Heat

A few strategies are already in place around the country to combat heat’s effects on pavement and keep road users safe. 

Cool Block Pilot Project in Chelsea, Massachusetts, is focused on helping residents of this known “heat island”. By layering heat-reducing measures like planting trees, installing white roofs, and repaving roads with lighter colored asphalt, they’re able to lessen the risk of heat-induced damages like buckling while reducing citizens’ risk of stroke, heart disease, and asthma. 

Fremont Bridge, Seattle, WA
Photo credit: Seattle DOT

MyNorthwest shares that Seattle DOT uses “bridge showers” to cool down these vital infrastructure assets in the face of unrelenting heat.

Paving and repairing damages with asphalt could be the most efficient route to deal with buckling. Tony Black from Washington DOT shared on KUOW that asphalt is ideal to fix certain buckling cracks because of its instant drying capabilities and its ability to expand and contract evenly. When asphalt buckling occurs, it’s usually due to it being overlaid on concrete.

Crack Fill Road
manual pavement assessment

A solid preventative road maintenance plan could lend a lot of support in dealing with heat-induced damages. Knowing which roads are newly paved, what materials they were paved with, and where they are located makes predicting what roads might experience negative heat consequences more manageable. 

RoadBotics has helped over 300 communities create a foundation for their maintenance choices through AI-powered road assessments. 

With RoadBotics technology, communities can conduct pavement inspections using a smartphone, and get access to an interactive, digital map of their roads. 

Each 10 ft section of pavement receives a rating on a scale of 1-5, with roads rated a 1 being in the best condition and roads rated a 5 being in the worst. Point data provides high-definition images for the entire network that allow road conditions to be referenced remotely.  

Incorporating GIS technology into maintenance strategies makes establishing a comprehensive database of the location, condition, and composition of a road network an easy goal to accomplish.

Interested in having a better understanding of where damages have a higher chance of happening because of pre-existing conditions? 

Get in touch with a RoadBotics Expert today to learn if our technology might be a good fit for your community.


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