Pothole Nation: Who’s to blame?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series Pothole Nation
New Orleans Brightmoor pothole

POTHOLES ARE EVERYWHERE! Think it’s a “Northern problem”? This monster is on a side street in New Orleans. Photo by Bart Everson, released for public use via Wikimedia Commons.

Do you have a pothole you love to hate?

Spring is finally here, giving us mild weather in which to enjoy the aftermath of the polar vortex: potholes. Tire-popping, frame-rattling, axle-snapping, backbone-jarring potholes. What’s the state of roads where you live? Who’s to blame for all the potholes?

The issue of potholes is a great values question because it involves so many principles and priorities. We loathe taxes but we want government services like durable roads. We can blame the potholes on local and state politicians, or the trucking industry, or poor urban planning, or global warming, or more. Maybe we just drive too much.

Michigan, my home state, spends less money per capita than any state in the union on roads and bridges, according to U.S. Census data. Neighboring states in the Midwest spend much more. But this hasn’t stopped the pothole problem in the region. Chicago has so many big potholes that a spoof appeared claiming that “missing plane found in Chicago pothole.” This was poor taste but it made a point.

A new poll of Michiganders reports that 28% blame the state legislature. Almost the same percentage (24%) blames Governor Snyder. Republicans are more likely to the blame the legislature, the poll finds, while Democrats are more likely to blame the governor—though they placed plenty of blame on the Republican-controlled legislature as well.

Fingers were also pointed at county government (9%), local government (7%), and special interest groups (8%). Only 5% laid blame on the voters. Twenty percent didn’t have an answer or were undecided.

What’s the state of roads where you live?

Where’s the pothole you love to hate?

Who’s to blame for all the potholes?

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  1. debbie valencia says

    I have lived in Michigan since the early 1980s and the roads have always been problematic. 2013’s polar vortex and past winter conditions only compounded the issue. More than just funding and the heavy truck loads permitted in our state, it is the how and the what (compound) that is used to fix roads. Perhaps we only get what we pay for, as we settle for and expect only a band-aid mediocre fix time and time again. Even roads that have been redone are not enough to a standard to last many years. Having lived in Luxembourg where the roads crews are said to be the best employment, I have seen great perpetually maintained roads. Having lived in Central America and Central Africa I have experienced non paved road, as well deep wrenching potholes. At age 10, my now 24 year daughter, wrote a letter, as a school assignment, to the Michigan Legislators and her chosen topic: “Why don’t we fix the roads right the first time?” ( having lived in Luxembourg 3 years she knew better) We are getting substandard quality spec roads, because we settle for less and pay for the minimum. This is not how we would raise our kids, nor how we should drive our economy for a Pure Michigan. We can do better by demanding better specs and quality and yes it will cost us to do it right the first time. In the long run it will pay off in unimaginable dividends!

  2. Debra Darvick says

    Lived here going on thirty years and am always amazed when I drive in other states how smooth the roads are.
    And yet it seems that whatever route I take here in Michigan , I am forever dodging road crews busy at work. What gives?
    Our state bird is the robin; our state flower is the apple blossom. Perhaps since those holding the road pursestrings can’t seem to find the votes to loosen them, they might find consensus by choosing a state color. I suggest traffic cone orange.