Concrete around UConn crumbling due to the melting and freezing cycle

With spring just around the corner and temperatures reaching into the high 30s and 40s during the afternoons, much of the snow and ice covering the sidewalks around the University of Connecticut Storrs campus is starting to melt. However, each night it refreezes and many of the roads, concrete walkways and staircases around campus are beginning to show the effects with cracks and bumps.

Large bumps or uplifted cracks form in concrete and asphalt due to the melted snow and ice leaking underneath the surface, refreezing and expanding overnight.

“Water gets into the cracks and breaks the concrete,” associate vice president of Facilities Operations Michael Jednak said. “Generally, it’s typical to have this problem after a winter like we are having.”

This winter’s combination of unusual snow and cold has made the problem worse than anticipated.

“We are getting stuck and we had to cut doors out of the concrete to keep everyone safe in Connecticut Commons,” Jednak said.

Many students in the Connecticut Commons residential area found themselves trapped in or outside when their usual door would no longer budge.

“The door literally wouldn’t open and they ended up marking it with yellow tape,” Caitlyn Durfee, a 4th-semester English major and resident of Connecticut Commons said.

The door that was blocked at Connecticut Commons is a second exit, according to Lieutenant Heidi Vaughn of the UConn Fire Department. Since all residence halls have sprinkler systems, the blocked second exit is not as concerning to UCFD, Vaughn said.

“The fire department and marshal’s office have been identifying areas of concern and following up with facilities,” Vaughn said. “All residence halls have been compliant with the fire safety code during this time and we’ve been taking the complaints seriously and responding to them with urgency.”

Any door that is unable to open is considered an emergency by Facilities Operations, Jednak said, because it is a fire hazard. Several of the area managers perform inspections daily to make sure that problems like this are caught as quickly as possible.

In an attempt to manage the problem of cracks and bumps Facilities Operations has a replacement plan for the walkways, stairwells and roads. However, if the problem becomes too severe during the winter months then they will place treads on the stairs or block off sections of road or sidewalk to prevent any injuries, Jednak said.

“The areas around south campus and alumni are the next in line for this summer,” Jednak said. “There are five flights of stairs around Rome and Wilson that will be replaced.”

The road between the baseball/softball complex and the soccer stadium, which deteriorated much faster than expected this year, will also have to be ripped up and repaved this summer, Jednak said.

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