I took this video yesterday. This street was newly paved 2 months ago. Here some photos (click to enlarge):
I've come to appreciate if there is snow on the ground, because it does at least fill these holes! Thaw is especially bad, because it's hard to tell the depth of a hole filled with water. And that bad shape of the pavement is not a problem confined to the cities. The last time I was courageous enough to take the highway 401 to Toronto, the road condition was worse than that of every highway I've taken in southern Africa, including the Trans-Kalahari highway. (The traffic on the 401 was considerably higher though.) Folks, I usually don't like to let my European genes enter my argumentation , but I've never, ever seen the streets in a Germany city in such a pity state.
And now don't give me that crap with the harsh climate. This winter has been very mild here this year, and I've seen winters in Germany where the temperature did drop to a - 20 °C as well.
I've had the Your-Streets-Suck argument previously in various places in the USA. Depending on the state, the excuse then is 'Yeah, but here it gets much warmer than in Germany'. Or, 'Yeah, but we have much heavier rainfalls than in France'. And if it's not that, then the ground is extraordinarily difficult to deal with or the vegetation causes problems, or maybe the potholes are on purpose just to keep the German tourists off speeding on the highways. Okay, I've been driving 240 km/h on the Autobahn, but admittedly I know about nothing about paving a street. Let me instead show you some pictures so you know what I mean.
Types of Damage
The one kind of damage that is caused by frost are lengthwise cracks which look like this (photos probably taken in Austria)
[Picture credits: Oberrat Dipl.-Ing. O. Henögl]
This kind of crack is caused if the water in the ground below the pavement freezes, expands, and pushes up the asphalt. It will typically crack in the middle where the elevation is the highest . The other kind of cracks I have seen often are net cracks which look like this:
[Picture credits: Oberrat Dipl.-Ing. O. Henögl]
And these are caused when the frozen water thaws in the ground under the pavement, can not flow off to the sides, but can only escape to the top through the asphalt. Which, under pressure, causes a net of cracks.
And then of course there are potholes. Some of them can get bad, some get really bad and grow to Waterloonian size, but the ones I remember from my days in Germany most often look somewhat like the pic to the right (photo: Hessische Straßen und Verkehrsverwaltung). What you see there is a hole in the top layer, probably a result of one of the above mentioned net cracks.
Now these mentioned kind of cracks I've seen occurring here as well, but the additional problem is that here these defects seem to grow, and they grow rather rapidly. If water can collect below the pavement in a loose ground, thaw will leave the street surface all brittle and an ideal candidate for huge holes. These defects grow further because once the upper layer has a defect the ground below is mostly loose shoulder. Cars driving through the holes loosen more of the ground which shifts, and the rims of the hole increase, while it also gets deeper. On a busy street it doesn't take long for a crack to grow to a size that will at least ruin your wheel alignment, if not your tires (not to mention the lacquer). And do you know what they do with these holes? They fill them with gravel - a procedure I've seen the first time in Botswana, just that there were usually much faster with that first aid maintenance.
Though I admit that Waterloo can't quite keep up with Detroit, look at this.
To the left is an example, (photo taken here in Waterloo this morning), of how one of these lengthwise cracks develop with a bad underground (larger version). You find these holes in abundance on Weber street towards North. It's hard to tell but it looks to me the newer the pavement, the faster the pothole growth.
A well paved has several in several layers, the lowest one being a division to the soil, upon which 5 other layers go. These layers should further be bonded, so they don't shift towards each other. I have no idea what the guys are doing here. That shit they put on the ground here doesn't even last one winter. German streets aren't great, but at least they last some years. France I hear makes quite an effort with their streets, they allegedly last decades.
Bad underground is especially problematic on highways. If there is constant heavy traffic on the street, unfortified ground tends to shift under pressure which causes lane grooves that are esp. dangerous during rain. Not to mention that it promotes the pothole growth.
Why am I telling you that?
A) Because it pisses me off. There are plenty of reasons to leave Germany. My top three list is: the GEZ, the shop opening hours, and BMW drivers. But at least they know how to pave their streets.
B) Because it gives you an example for system failure. I can see two reasons for that crap (Pfusch am Bau).
- 1) One is that a better quality would be more expensive than fixing the road frequently, and providing constant maintenance service during the winters. It could be more expensive because the technique is likely more effort, but it gets increasigly difficult if the machinery/people/expertise is not easily available. That price argument fails to take into account damage caused by these street conditions, cost that has to be carried by drivers. Not to mention that annoyance doesn't have an immediate monetary equivalent. It could also be that the maintenance service runs on different budget (state/city), so doesn't weigh in at the right place.
2) Second, if that is not the case it could just be they pleasantly ignore there is a huge scope for improvement. Sounds somewhat odd, but look at this video (somewhere Milwaukee) or this video (Boston), in neither of which anybody even attempts to ask whether these bad conditions could be, to some degree, avoidable. Scary in a different way is this video from Montreal where the speaker explains the washed away ground is due to leaking pipes, but I agree with his conclusion to stop the cosmetics and rebuild the roads completely.
If you ask me the most intelligent community of the world should get itself some pavement engineers, pronto. Who needs theoretical physicists?
See also: Berkeley's Pavement Research Center.
 The easiest way to annoy an American citizen is to challenge his or her national pride. He will either label you anti-American and therby justify his right to dismiss everything the arrogant Europoean says (because she's of course just jealous her passport has the wrong color). Or the discussion will inevitably approach the big attractor Hitler. And yes, restrictions apply. As always. And you are the one exception.
 It is of a certain advantage if the street elevation is the highest in the middle so the water can flow off to the sides. I am mentioning this because typically in Tucson I recall the center of the crossings are the lowest points. Which is great because if it rains, water can stay there half a meter deep. The city is therefore covered with 'do not enter when flooded' signs that you should take really seriously. But hey, that's just because they have so heavy rainfalls.