Friday, March 12, 2010

Stimulate road repairs

Drivers are battling an epidemic of teeth-rattling potholes, jarring not only wheels and tires but also transportation departments trying to pay for road fixes.

"The roads are so bad, you have to wear a mouthpiece," says David Alston, 50, a school bus driver in Iselin, N.J..

Pothole patching crews are making repairs earlier this year after an unusually severe winter of heavy snowstorms followed by freezing temperatures, then a quick warm-up.

. . . Potholes are good news for car repair shops. Somerset Tire Service in East Meadow, N.Y., is seeing almost triple the usual number of customers coming in with blown tires, bent rims and other damage, says assistant manager Steven Walchak.

The pothole problem is unlikely to improve unless more money is spent to maintain roads, says Peter King, executive director of the American Public Works Association. "What we are seeing is the result of deferring maintenance over time," King says. "Next year it will be worse, and two years from now even worse."

If you were designing a stimulus program to create temporary employment with immediate impact and societal benefit, you would give the unemployed shovels and a paycheck and put them to work on road repairs.

Instead, the stimulus bill was filled with pork barrel paybacks to campaign supporters and donors.

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