Over the weekend, Dallas Cowboys legend (and former auto dealership owner) Troy Aikman was driving in Dallas. Presumably his car hit a pothole. Or maybe he spotted a pothole ahead of him in the road and swerved to avoid it. Maybe he hit a few potholes in a row, or maybe his entire trip felt like he was dodging potholes like Giants linebackers. Whatever the case, Dallas Cowboys legend Tory Aikman was fed up with the damned potholes, and so he got mad. So mad, in fact, he did what all Americans do these days when we’re mad. We Tweet:
Are there any worse roads in the country than we have in Dallas?? Not anywhere I’ve traveled. #potholeseverywhere
— Troy Aikman (@TroyAikman) July 12, 2015
It’s not surprising that Aikman is tired of Dallas’ pothole problem. After all, as we reported in the June print edition, nearly 60 percent of Dallas’ streets are grade C, which means they are in some state of deterioration. But Aikman is the former captain of America’s Team with a Twitter network that stretches far and wide, and so, unlike our own frustration, which may have only be echoed back by fellow frustrated Dallasites, members of the Cowboys Nation responded in droves to Aikman’s tweet.
Many of Aikman’s followers claimed that their own cities were worse than Dallas. Where? Well, Aikman’s followers claimed that there are terrible potholes in New Orleans; Houston; Jackson, MS; Oahu, HI; Montreal; Austin; Rockford, IL; Rochester, NY; the entire state of Indiana; Washington D.C.; Fresno, CA, Fort Worth, and all of Massachusetts and New Jersey. In other words, potholes are the worst just about everywhere.
Potholes are a national problem, and almost every city deals with a large inventory of expensive road repairs. Last year may have been one of the worst yet for potholes, particularly in northern climates where a combination of ice, snow, de-icing, and snow plowing wreaked havoc on roads.
In Cleveland, crews were dropping six tons of asphalt on roads every day and still not getting to the bottom of the problem. New York City filled almost 255,000 potholes throughout the five boroughs. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel revamped its pothole-filling strategy. Instead of responding to individual complaints, he sent out pothole “striker teams” to address the most well-traveled roads in the city. And it is not just cities that bear the burden of maintenance costs. According to TRIP, a national transportation research group, bad roads cost the average American driver an estimated $515 a year in extra operation and maintenance costs.
But back to Aikman. Where are potholes the worst? That’s a question TRIP tries to answer year with its list of the most potholed cities in the country. It may come as a disappointment to some Dallas drivers for whom a solid showing on the list would affirm their in-transit tirades, but not only is Dallas not the worst, according to TRIP, it doesn’t even make the top ten. Here are the worst cities for potholes:
10. Oklahoma City
9. New Orleans
7. Bridgeport, CT
6. New York City
5. Tucson, AZ
4. San Diego
3. San Jose
2. San Francisco
1. Los Angeles
Not that this lets Dallas off the hook. We still need $900 million to meet the city’s goal of bringing the maintenance of the city’s streets back up to the 87 percent street satisfaction goal set by the council in 2006. In other words, just because our roads aren’t the worst, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t a pressing municipal problem, and one that will only get worse if it is left untended.
But the larger issue is that all American roads are really bad. According to Gizmodo, it comes down to how we construct roads in this country. We build roads as cheaply as possible, laying a thin surface of concrete or asphalt over a dirt bed. When water seeps through cracks and gets underneath the solid road surface, it creates water and air pockets in the base dirt. As those expand, the surface cracks. The need for repairs is written into the design, a decision that basically favors cutting construction costs upfront and kicking the inevitable maintenance down the, ahem, road. From the Gizmodo piece:
Road-building is a kind of prediction game that tries to balance initial construction cost with continuing maintenance. Build a very thick road with a solid foundation—like what the Germans have done with the Autobahn—and the road won’t need as much continuing maintenance. That means cracking and caving happens less often because the roads are designed to be more difficult for water to get down under. But build a thinner road with a less stable foundation, and you’re looking at lots of regular upkeep.
And the cost of that upkeep adds up and up and up until, like Cowboys Legend Troy Aikman, potholes cause drivers lose their minds (Warning: the video in link contains very NSFW, but perhaps cathartic, language).