Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The craters grow in Pothole City

Just the other day I was saying that soon Londoners will be treated to an article from the London Free Press blaming the enormous and frequent number of potholes on the spring thaw. The wait is over. Today's Daily Dose of Apologies for city incompetence features an article on the growing pothole problem in the city. The headline is "Holey roads, they're back."

This is of course a completely misleading headline, because the potholes never went away as anyone who bumps along the streets of London will know. Recall that back in the fall, respondents to an online survey accepting nominations for Ontario's worst roads ranked Western Road and King Street as among the worst roads in the province. London also ranked third in the worst municipal roads category, gathering more votes than Hamilton, Windsor and Kitchener combined.
It's that bone-jarring, tire- crushing time of year again -- pothole season.

And London's streets are as bad as ever, perhaps worse.

Just ask Peter Cuddy.

Two tires, two rims and $1,000 later, Cuddy is looking for payback from the city after his car hit a "sinkhole" Feb. 17.

"I'd just picked up two employees and I was driving along Oxford Street and getting ready to turn when one of them said, 'Peter, look out for the hole,'" said Cuddy, a Ward 2 candidate in the last civic election and owner of Touche Bakery.

"I actually thought I was going to miss it. But it was huge. If I had hit that hole, head on, I'm sure the front end of my car would have been swallowed. It was more like a sinkhole."
It's getting harder to dodge the familiar potholes on commonly traveled streets. Take Cheapside for example. Although a fairly quick route to get to the east end of the city, the only way to avoid the potholes is to drive on the other side of the road. As this is not generally the prudent response, drivers bounce to their destination, stopping to pick up pieces of their vehicle along the way.
While Cuddy, like others, is taking his claim to the city, the real culprit isn't the city, or city workers or what they do or don't do when repairing roads.

Blame it on the weather, especially this winter's balmy thaws.

"We don't usually have that many problems with potholes if it stays cold," said Don Purchase, the city's acting manager of roadside operations.

"It's when you get that freeze-thaw action with the water getting in the hole. It just lifts the asphalt."
Apparently the water is working harder than the road crews, who, judging from the state of the city streets, haven't lifted much asphalt for a good long while. For the last month and a half, it has been very cold in London. The warm weather we had over the weekend does not explain three very large potholes I dodged in the east end for over two weeks. A giant crater on Dundas east, at the Wavell intersection, went through many bizarre transformations as the city attempted to fill the hole. Beginning as a giant crater, it eventually became a giant mound, and often the spot would be blocked off completely by city barricades, forcing westbound traffic into the southern lane, although no city workers were anywhere near the scene. The mound is once again a depression, and less treacherous than the initial crater, but the pylons remain ready along the side of street for the next stage.

When the spring thaw is over, council and city staff will revert back to the lack of funds argument, indicating once again that they don't know how to draft a balanced and sensible budget.
At Maple City Tire on Dundas Street, Walker Campbell is seeing more damage, including that to Cuddy's car.

"It's absolutely horrendous out there," he shouted, before offering an inventory of bad potholes he's seen or been told about in the city's east end.

"I think it's worse this year. I'm not sure the city is repairing them properly. But there's a lot of people who don't call the city and just pay for the repair."

Controller Bud Polhill, who runs his own car repair shop, said the pothole problem is citywide.

"I can tell you I'm hearing a lot of complaints about them," said Polhill, who argued successfully to boost the city's road repair budget.

While weather is the root cause, Polhill also wonders whether there's a better asphalt mix the city should use. He's asked city staff to investigate.
Fight for better roads Londoners! Flood the city with emails and phone calls. Let the city know that roads are more important than arenas and heritage. 661-4570

On a more positive note, the potholes are slowing London drivers down; the energies of cops otherwise devoted to catching speeders can now be more effectively deployed to deal with the growing number of thieves and thugs who roam the streets of this crumbling city we so affectionately call Gundon.


Anonymous said...

FYI - you can't even buy asphalt in the winter. The plants shut down in the fall and are not open until the weather turns. Asphalt must be placed and compacted hot in order for it to adhere to itself and the existing road, any winter patches are just that, patches that will not last even the spring.

Joe Molnar said...

If London City council had applied the money spent on lawsuits and OMB objections in the past three years, Oxford Street east from the airport road could have been repaved all the way to Colborne Street. Twice?