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Like Driving on Loose Gravel: Pavement buckles pose larger risk to motorcyclists

Posted at 5:41 PM, Jun 18, 2024

Several pavement buckles have occurred around northeast Wisconsin, and the buckles can present a particular safety risk for motorcyclists.

  • There was a pavement buckle Monday night along I-41 south in Brown County, just outside of De Pere; another was reported Tuesday afternoon in Oconto County along US 41 south
  • A pavement buckle can turn the paved surface into something more like a gravel road, which can especially affect motorcycles, said Michael Piacenti, operations manager at the Brown County Highway Department
  • Our recent wet weather can increase the potential for pavement buckles, Piacenti said

(The following is a transcript of the broadcast story.)

If one of your passions, and your job, revolve around the same thing - you're like Corey Vistain.

"I ride [a motorcycle] quite a bit," Vistain said.

"[I] probably put on at least 5,000 miles this year."

And he's a salesman at Team Motorsports near De Pere.

But summer freedom on two wheels, can come with something extra to watch out for: pavement buckling in the heat.

Michael Piacenti is operations manager at the Brown County Highway Department.

"A lot of your pavement buckles... it's like gravel out there, a lot of loose concrete," [Piacenti said].

"So for cars and trucks, it'll be like hitting a bump, for motorcycles it can be like like driving on loose... gravel."

[Vistain said that can pose a problem.]

"If there's gravel on the ground anywhere... you're going to lose traction," Vistain said.

There was a pavement buckle Monday afternoon on I-41 south in the De Pere area.

And the state DOT says high heat caused a joint to expand and fail, which led to the planned closure of the bridge on I-41 south over Lake Butte des Morts bridge early Tuesday.

As far as buckling pavement, Piacenti says it's not just the heat that can play a role.

"Generally, pavement buckling happens when you have had a wet year, wet summer like we have had, then you start to get temperatures up into the upper 80s and into the 90s, and it starts to warm up that moisture, and then it pops the concrete."

On a motorcycle, watching the road is nothing new.

"90 percent of riding is just paying attention to what you're doing," [Vistain said].

And Vistain says watching out for buckled pavement is part of that.

"It's something you've got to consider, because the road that you're traveling on, the conditions, that's very important," [Vistain said].

When the Brown County Highway Department gets a call about a buckled road, they will go out and make a temporary fix for the road, before returning and putting in that long-term repair.