Cynical Synapse

Sun, 01 Feb 2009

Groundhog Day and Potholes

Filed under: Cars, Customer service, Driving, holidays, Life, Michigan, People, Rants — cynicalsynapse @ 1:08 pm

The Groundhog Day legend claims if the groundhog sees his shadow, we’ll have six more weeks of winter. Conversely, according to lore, if the groundhog does not see his shadow, spring will be early. This seems backwards to me: if the sun is out and casting shadows, isn’t it more likely to also offer warmth and melt snow? And, overcast—with no shadows—portends precipitation, which is snow during the winter months. The other fallacy of the Groundhog Day tradition is there’s no fidelity to the concept of spring coming early. Is that a day? A week? Or, perhaps, just seconds. Statistically, the groundhog is right about 39% of the time. Here’s my take: if the groundhog sees his shadow, we’ve got six more weeks of winter; if he doesn’t, spring will be here in a month and a half.

What’s this got to do with potholes? Simple. We’re in pothole season—perhaps Groundhog Day marks the official beginning of pothole season. Matt Helms discusses Michigan’s horrible roads, advising us to get ready for pothole hell in his Detroit Free Press column today. In his column, several road maintenance people hold to three important points: there are two more months of winter, there will be lots of potholes, and there is a shortage of time and money to fix them. The first point supports my belief in how the groundhog’s weather predictions really work. The second is an obvious fact of Michigan’s roads.

As for the third point, it really has more to do with the Groundhog Day movie. These pothole problems manifest themselves every year, over and over again. And, just like the State of the Union address we here the same old platitudes. We’ll do our best. There’s not enough money. Blah, blah, blah. What transportation officials are really telling us is we should expect sub-par services. At least they’re being up front about it, but I have issues with that. It’s the same cost-shifting to consumers that has road commissions wait until after rush hour to salt or plow the highways. Both end up with costly towing and repair bills.

potholecrew

Here’s a better solution. Instead of having 6 truck patching convoys, how about cutting it down to 3 trucks? I understand needing to protect the workers, but what’s gained by having 2 trucks with arrows and two trucks with those collision barracade things instead of one each? And what’s the additional truck for, a relief shoveler? Cutting the size of work crews in half will allow the road commission and MDOT to address a lot more potholes with the same resources. Some of us call that concept “bang for the buck.”

Since it’s just not feasible for road workers to get to every pothole as soon as it opens up, drivers still have to be careful. There are some pothole survival tips from Ford Motor Company. Permit me to point out, however, I disagree with the blog author’s perspective of southeast Michigan road commissions, especially Oakland County’s. A caveat: they have done a better job overall with snow removal this year, but they still fall short. There’s no excuse for waiting until after rush hour when you know the day before the snow is coming.

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