“Potholes are a part of L.A. culture,” said Nicole Perras, a lifelong Los Angeles resident, whose commute takes her from Mar Vista to work in Mid-Wilshire and school in Alhambra . “Just like mudslides, fires, and flooding are annual events, made worse by our complete lack of preventive efforts. Kind of like the health care system.”
The series of rainstorms that has hit the city in the last two weeks — almost biblical in proportion by Los Angeles standards — left the customary trail of potholes in its wake, as the water joined oversized trucks and buses in accelerating road deterioration. Repair crews have since flooded the streets, trying to respond to a backlog of potholes in need of patching.
Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti, 13th District, employed 21st Century media to help tackle this age-old problem.
“Pushing pothole repairs…call ‘em in at 311 [the City of Los Angeles telephone information line] so our task force can get cracking as soon as we get some dry hours,” Garcetti posted on Facebook.
Victoria Minetta responded, “All of Wilshire Blvd. is a pothole, from LaBrea to Figueroa!”
With dry weather expected for the next week, pothole repair trucks will be out in force, trying to patch the damage caused by the storms. Bill Robertson, director of the Bureau of Street Services, said after rainstorms he will send out 50 trucks to fill holes, as opposed to 16 to 20 trucks on a usual day. Last Sunday alone Street Services patched over 4,000 potholes around the city.
The system of filing in potholes frustrates many residents, who think it does not address the root of the problem.
“It’s the exact same cyclical thing,” said Camille Santochi, who has lived in Park La Brea since 1996. “They patched a bunch of holes on Third Street last summer, but now after the storms, we’re back to that same crunchingly intense pothole experience on the way to work, where your jaw is just about hitting your forehead. The patch jobs last maybe a month or two, then the same potholes come right back, because they don’t have the money to actually repave the streets.”
“They’re exactly right,” Robertson said. “They’re right that the condition of the roads makes it more expensive to drive a car here, as well. When you call in a pothole, we fix it, because that’s a safety issue. But filling potholes is the lowest level repair. You’re just buying time when you do that. Once you get a pothole, it means something in the pavement has gone wrong, and the only way to really fix it is to dig it up and replace the road.”
Robertson explained that from the end of the World War II until the 1980s, very little was done to help maintain or repair Los Angeles’ roads. By the 1990s, the city had recognized that it costs four or fives times more to reconstruct a road than to maintain it, and began to change the approach. When Robertson became acting director of Street Services in 2002, he shifted the bureau’s focus towards street preservation, rather than repair.
“Our philosophy is to preserve what we’ve got and when we get the money, move forward with repairs through technology,” Robertson said. “The reason we have so many potholes is due to a total lack of maintenance for fifty years. For every dollar we spend making a bad street good, four or five other streets have fallen into disrepair. So we now spend eighty percent of our money on maintenance and 20 percent on repair.”
Now, when Street Services goes into a neighborhood, the crews will repave the streets in decent condition, but leave the streets in the worst condition alone.
“As additional funding comes in, we take on the streets that are in the worst condition,” Robertson said.
“That’s just ridiculous,” Santochi said, upon hearing Robertson’s philosophy of road repair and maintenance, although she added, “I don’t blame the governments or the bureaucracy for this. L.A. is a huge city, and there’s only so much money to go around. But when they redo streets they should cut out this blacktop business and move to concrete.”
As with all other municipal services, securing funding for street repairs amid the city’s budget crisis is the biggest potential roadblock to Robertson’s plan.
“We’ve put together a program for the next four years,” Robertson said. “If we get funding, it’ll be the first time since World War II that our ‘Pavement Condition Index’ (a system for measuring the quality of a city’s roads) will improve.”
Right now, the city’s Pavement Condition Index is a 62, which Roberts likens to a grade of C- or D+. He says he hopes four years from now to be at an index of 80, a B grade.
“Of all the things we do, our core service is maintaining the streets, that’s been the core service of this bureau for the last hundred years,” Robertson said. “When I met with the mayor I told him cut whatever you need to cut from the Street Services budget, but leave the pavement preservation budget.”
If funding does get cut from the pavement preservation budget, however, prepare for a bumpy ride.
This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.