Why can’t the Ministry of Transportation just take off the top layer of pavement when tearing up the highway, and put down a new layer in the same go?

Ideally, that’s what they’d like to do. It is possible for machines to remove the top layer of pavement and put down a new one immediately, usually overnight. A machine cuts out pieces of the old, damaged road—a process called milling—then a new surface of hot-mix asphalt, a combination of crushed stones and gravel held together with liquid asphalt cement, is laid down. Sometimes, because machines are not available or as a result of weather delays, that bumpy, teeth-rattling milled surface is exposed for longer, usually a maximum of 72 hours.

Why do so many road repairs seem to drag on forever? There are two situations when “shave and pave” projects slow down. One is when the work is done in stages so that enough lanes stay open to maintain the flow of traffic. The other happens during the winter, when unplanned milling pro­cedures are needed as a result of rapid freezing and thawing. At that time, repaving can be delayed by up to eight months until it’s warm enough to put down hot-mix asphalt, which must be mixed, placed, and compacted at high temper­atures. In addition, while a typical repaving job covers a stretch of highway six to twelve km long, the contractor might tackle it one kilometre at a time. Math lesson: If it takes three days to complete a one-kilometre section, that’s potentially 36 days of roadwork.

The grooved pavement is not comfortable to drive on but heck, it’s a lot better than driving your car into a giant pothole at 100 km/h.