Island folks take life one pothole at a time
|||Readers tell their pothole stories|
By Karen Blakeman
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Karen Blakeman
They multiply like mushrooms in rainy weather, cause motorists to zigzag through traffic, eat hubcaps and damage undercarriages.
Potholes have long been a fact of life, but the almost biblical rains that soaked the Islands last month produced a new deluge.
"We have 10 crews patching potholes," city road maintenance chief Larry Leopardi said. "They are doing the best they can."
The Advertiser asked residents to share stories of tire-chomping craters, and got an outpouring of responses.
Al Mejia of Wai'anae told about his survival tactic: After losing two hubcaps to potholes, he gave up on those unnecessary and transitory little accessories.
"I painted my rims silver," he wrote. "My little work car looks spiffy now and I don't have to worry about losing my hubcaps."
Shelley Okubo rides along Nimitz Highway and Ala Moana on her way to work in Waikiki.
"Fronting Restaurant Row until Hawaii Prince Hotel Waikiki is like traveling on a roller coaster," she wrote. "Weaving in and out, trying not to hit the potholes."
The center lane just beyond Pi'ikoi is especially bad, she wrote. "That boulevard is heavily traveled so anything you can do would be appreciated."
The state Department of Transportation is responsible for maintaining Ala Moana, and Scott Ishikawa, a spokesman, said state crews are trying to keep up with the patching.
Patching, he said, is only a temporary measure. Repaving is needed to keep Ala Moana from becoming a moonscape.
Nimitz Highway from the airport to downtown was recently repaved, he said. "In the fall we're shooting to do Ala Moana into Waikiki," he said.
Farrington Highway through Waipahu and 'Aiea Access Road between Moanalua Road and Aloha Stadium, other areas that readers said were pitted with potholes, are scheduled for repaving between now and June — weather permitting, he said.
DIP TRAFFIC CONE
City roads got a few pings from readers. Clinton Char wrote about a Metcalf Street pothole:
"Someone put an orange traffic cone in it to help motorists see the hole," Char wrote. "The problem is that the hole is so deep, only the top five inches of the cone stick out above the ground."
Road chief Leopardi didn't seem comfortable with that description, and decided to withhold comment on the Metcalf canyon. He did address the cone: City workers didn't put it there.
"We wouldn't do that," he said. "We'd just patch it."
Another reader wrote to say that buses, too wide to avoid the holes, seem to take the worst — and noisiest — hits as they bounce over pitted pavement.
Leopardi said buses do have a bad time and also, because of their weight, tend to do a lot of damage to the asphalt.
He wanted to discuss solutions to the bus problem, but first he had this to say:
"You shouldn't swerve to avoid potholes. Too many of our drivers aren't paying attention to who is in this lane and switching to that lane. It isn't safe. You should slow down for a pothole. You shouldn't swerve."
Leopardi also talked about O'ahu drivers who endanger lives by using city and state roads as their own personal speedways, then got back to the buses and their tendency to mess up pavement, particularly in areas requiring frequent stopping.
"That's why we've been advocating concrete bus stops," he said. "Better yet, concrete bus lanes."
His department, he said, also has been asking for the resources and money to regularly resurface roads across O'ahu — something that would keep mushroom crops of potholes from developing in the first place.
"The best time to pave is before it starts to deteriorate, not after," he said. "But we don't have the resources — the engineers, the inspectors. The funding is only part of it."
Funding — the kind that comes in the bad years as well as the good — has been a point of contention between the road maintenance office and the City Council.
"Consistent maintenance is more effective," Leopardi said. "But it isn't sexy. It isn't a ribbon-cutting event."
Reach Karen Blakeman at email@example.com.