Potholes: Those Ever Present Bumps In The Road

July 11, 2010

Pothole repair has become the victim of a perfect storm. The convergence of dwindling budgets, a lot of rain and a heat wave has only one person smiling and he’s knee deep in bent rims and broken axles.

Voters in San Mateo County California decide in November on whether to increase vehicle registration fees by $10. If passed the new rate would raise $6.7 million, about half of which would go to pothole repair and paving roads. In the city of Palm Bay Florida, the 14,000 residents of one subdivision will decide whether to increase taxes by $3,000 per lot or keep the pothole littered roads. The craters are so bad that drivers often divert into the opposing traffic lane rather than confront the potholes head-on, according to MyFoxOrlando.

Recent rains in the southwest have eroded roadways and created potholes. Houston Texas area roads were featured on an ABC13 feature that indicated that the potholes were out of control. An official from the city’s Public Works Department encouraged drivers to report the locations of the damaged roadway. The department repairs 60,000 potholes a year.

Weather also plays a part in the repair of potholes. The heat wave on the east coast has thwarted the efforts of repair crews in towns like Hazelton, Pennsylvania where the temperature has been in the mid 90s. The mix used to fill the pothole must solidify and adhere to the roadway. In the extreme heat the fill material stays soft and disintegrates into small stones as traffic passes, causing residents to complain that small stones were ending up on the sidewalks.

Potholes can be a menace to public safety. In Tennessee a brother is suing a county in which his brother and sister crashed their pick-up truck after allegedly encountering a pothole and losing control. The vehicle blew a tire and hit two trees according to The Daily Herald.

The only benefactor of the bull market in potholes is the auto repair shop. As vehicles bottom out the wheels are usually the first part to show the damage. If it is a steel wheel often times it can be straightened with a sledge hammer and a new tire mounted and balanced on it. Alloy wheels however, can only be repaired with specialized equipment.

Beyond tires and rims the other components that are susceptible to pothole damage are axles and struts as well as steering parts like tie rod ends and idler arms. Brake rotors can become warped if you apply the brakes as you enter the pothole. The preferable approach would be to slow down prior to hitting the hole.

This has your local auto technician in a good mood. One Houston garage reported replacing the same tire on a BMW three times. One thing about potholes, they don’t go away without some governmental intervention.

[KTRK-TV, MyFoxOrlando, The Daily Herald]

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