Wednesday, March 26, 2014

ARE POTHOLES INEVITABLE?

We are all fed up with the impact of this torturous Winter on our wallets, vehicles, roads, sidewalks and energy bills.

I don't think I have ever seen as many damaged vehicles.

Fortunately, I have not list a tire or a strut this year. Out typical day includes a lot of driving to schools, hockey rinks, churches and the like. We burn through a couple of tanks a gas a week ferrying kids to various programs throughout the city, CBS, Mount Pearl and The Southern Shore.

We have become very aware of the craters along our most travelled routes. Occasionally, I hit one hard enough that I get worried that that rough riding sound and feel is a flat tire.

A quick google of the search term "pothole" provides a myriad of results confirming that St. John's is not alone in battling this seasonal affliction. Cities, towns, counties and other municipal governments throughout North America combat the ravages of the the freeze, thaw, expand, crack, freeze cycle on road infrastructure.

There are news stories, editorials and letters. No matter the jurisdiction, the theme is the same. Damaged vehicles and frustrated people who feel the problem is somehow unique to their jurisdiction.

From a local perspective it is easy to feel that our municipal public works departments are not adequately on top of the problem. It is like a game of whack-a-mole! They repair one, and another ten pop up.

Besides slowing down, driving more cautiously and listening to local traffic reports what can be done? Are there any engineering, material or design enhancements that can be incorporated into road construction which might make the infrastructure less susceptible to the ravages of our Northern climate?

The answer doesn't lie in a revolutionary new cement or asphalt mix Instead, it comes down to a few simple things: quality materials, experienced builders, plus regular road maintenance and reconstruction.

Some argue that our political system is to blame, that road construction and repair is a lucrative business. Poor road construction equates to more work doing repairs. The contractors make money on both ends. One thing is clear, engineering and construction firms do make a disproportionate contribution to political coffers.

Add to this that people don't want to pay increased taxes to get into massive replacements of older roads. We want better infrastructure but we do not want to pay for it.

The bottom line, like the four seasons, the daily rise and setting of the Sun, we have to remember who is boss.

Potholes are synonymous with Spring! Despite efforts to prevent them, the climate we live in means that potholes are inevitable.

We may be the top of the food chain, but nature does not respect our dominion.


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