Last week, a student put out a petition calling for the University of Maine to repave the roads on campus. As of Friday afternoon, the petition had amassed nearly 2,400 signatures, with students expressing similar frustrations on social media.
Second-year mechanical engineering student Dhruv Patel created the petition out of growing frustration with the road conditions around campus and decided to take action.
“I was planning on doing something like this for a couple of weeks now,” Patel said. “I started considering it when my car kept hitting a pothole the size of a manhole cover every 10 feet.”
Patel expected a couple hundred signatures over the course of a few weeks but was surprised by the sudden and overwhelming response when the UMaine Barstool Instagram account posted the petition on their account. From there, it gained over 2,000 supporters in less than 48 hours.
“I honestly don’t know how [UMaine] will respond,” Patel said. “We are nearly at 2,500 supporters and I don’t think UMaine can easily ignore that. But [UMaine] should think about doing something because students will honestly have a sour taste when describing the school to potential incoming students and that won’t be good for the future of the school.”
Joe Beaudoin, a fourth-year social work student, has had experience through the UMaine Student Assembly of Voters in community organizing to get students politically represented.
“If the students really wanted UMaine to take them seriously, they could try organizing small numbers for a student protest during campus tours,” Beaudoin said. “If one potential student represents [$40,000 in] tuition over four years, students could stand to gain hundreds of thousands of dollars in negotiating power by going after sales.”
Associate Executive Director for Maintenance & Operations for the Office of Facilities Management Geremy Chubbuck gave insight to the logistics side of caring for the roads on campus.
This year has been particularly challenging for all roads around Maine, and that includes those on campus. Chubbuck said he is not aware of any past petitions to better the damaged roads such as this one even though there have been years where roads were damaged by winter weather similar to this year.
“I’m from out of state and pay a good amount of money to attend this school,” Allie Clayboss, a fourth-year marketing student said. “I wish my expensive tuition and ‘fees’ could go toward the upkeep of the roads on campus, snow or not.”
According to Chubbuck, there are two main roadblocks for UMaine to simply pave the parking lots and roads: availability of pavement and air temperature.
Asphalt plants have closed for the winter season, he said, so asphalt is not available for purchase. Plants begin to make daily batches in late April through to late November, depending on air temperature. Each year, UMaine is in the queue to receive asphalt during opening week of the plant. Asphalt then must be installed when the binder surface temperature is above 40 degrees F and dry or else it will not bind, so paving in the winter is not feasible in the Northeast.
“To prepare for this, we work hard in the fall to make the paved areas on campus as good as possible entering the winter season,” Chubbuck said. “This challenge is not unique to UMaine. Municipalities and the State have the same constraints on asphalt availability and weather damaged roads.”
“This year is the first I have had a car and I have already damaged my rims and my suspension from these potholes,” Chris Steward, a fourth-year chemistry student, said. “The UMaine administration needs to take action by repairing (not filling) the potholes to prevent other people from damaging their cars.”
However, UMaine is aware of the pothole issue and has been working to stay on top of it. Facilities Management’s Ground Shop crew work during the winter to maintain roads, walkways and parking lots on campus. In addition to snow removal, they also patch potholes.
“Generally speaking, there are two methods that are used to patch potholes — cold patch and hot patch. Cold patch is a cold bitumen mix that is placed into potholes. This is inferior to hot patch which uses a hot bitumen mix,” Chubbuck explained.
A few years ago, UMaine purchased a hot patch machine which recycles asphalt grindings, adds fresh bitumen and creates asphalt. The tool, however, has its limitations as the machine can only make two tons of asphalt per batch (about one cubic yard) and it takes eight hours to make a batch.
“Because we have 16 hour per day coverage, the Grounds Shop is able to produce two batches each day,” Chubbuck said. “Additionally, neither cold patch, nor hot patch can be applied to potholes that contain water, ice or snow because it won’t bind.”
As of Saturday afternoon, 2,500 people had signed Patel’s petition. The petition can be found at https://www.change.org/p/university-of-maine-have-umaine-repave-all-the-roads-and-pathways-on-campus-not-just-fill-in-potholes.