Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Welcome to Pothole City USA

Posted By on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 at 9:49 PM

As inevitable as death and taxes, and about as welcome, is The Bulletin’s Annual Pothole Story, which appeared on this morning’s front page.

Under the headline “What’s with all the potholes in Bend?” the story, accompanied by a neat little graphic, explained how potholes form and why Bend has so many of them.

The reason they form, basically, is that freezing and thawing creates cracks in asphalt and the weight of cars and trucks causes those cracks to extend and deepen until whole chunks of pavement work loose.

The reason there are so many of them in Bend is that (a) Bend has a lot of freezing and thawing and (b) Bend doesn’t have the money or manpower to fix them all.

“Instead of being able to do a lot of [pavement overlay] work, we're doing pothole patching, temporary repairs, small repairs,” Bend Street Division Manager Hardy Hanson told The Bulletin. “We'll be doing more and more of this, which is unfortunately a reactive position. We'll be chasing pothole problems for quite a while.”

Chasing, but never catching up. Hanson explained that the city crews have to practice “triage” in deciding which potholes to fix. ““If we have a truck in the area, we will have the crew monitor it and do what we call ‘throw and go’ — throw some mix in it, compact it and run on. We kind of have to triage because you can't fix everything really well.”

Of course little potholes that don’t get properly fixed soon grow into big potholes, which the city then has to spend more labor time to repair.

As I see it there are two takeaways from this story:

1. Bend might be able to handle its pothole problem better if it hadn’t allowed so many more miles of road to be built to accommodate development over the last decade without having an adequate revenue source to pay for maintaining them.

2. People who like to bitch about the cost of Bend Area Transit and other forms of “subsidized public transit” should consider that the Bend budget for the current biennium includes $200,000 just to fix potholes and more than $13.4 million total for street maintenance – compared to $5.7 million for BAT and Dial-a-Ride.

Think car travel isn’t “subsidized”? Think again.

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