Aug 15 – Potholes

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” Babs Hoffman

Indy cartoon
Cartoonist Gary Varvel: Indianapolis potholes

Traveling through the United States in an RV makes one keenly aware of road conditions. Every slope, grade, rut, low-hanging tree, covered bridge, soft shoulder, sheer drop off, crack and pothole is experienced with a heightened awareness. And with a good amount of mileage covered, it becomes quite evident that each state and each county within a state has its own governance when it comes to road maintenance. How many times have you crossed a state or county line and encountered the most dramatic change in road conditions? Depending on which direction the conditions go, your body goes into passive or defensive mode. I understand that each state or county has its issues; but Indiana, or more specifically Marion County has a very serious pothole problem.

Repaving
They do try.

My family, including my 91-yr old mother is the reason Indianapolis is always a destination in our travels. Not that Indianapolis is a bad city but every time I visit, I ask myself why couldn’t my family, all originally from northern Michigan, have gravitated toward Seattle or Austin? I would be just as happy had everyone stayed in beautiful northern Michigan! But no, they ended up in Indianapolis, one family member after another. Having visited Indy more times than I can remember over the past forty years, I can genuinely tell you that it has been a struggle to find redeeming qualities to this city and this is largely because I am not a fan of race cars or basketball. But to be fair, it is the home town of Kurt Vonnegut, author to one of my favorite books.

indy road
My daily commute to mom’s house.

The state of Indiana is known as the Crossroads of America and Indianapolis contributes well to this with six interstate highways crossing through town. Which brings me to the topic of the blog, potholes. I repeat, Marion County has a serious pothole problem. Don’t believe me? Check out the pothole map below. I totally understand that northern cities are subjected to snow and ice, and consequently have challenges that cities like Miami do not. Knowing a little bit about physics, I also understand that cold temperatures cause water to freeze and expand, and warm temperatures do the opposite. It’s during the spring when freezing and thawing oscillate more frequently. This in turn places the greatest stress on roads and makes them vulnerable to pothole formation. Apparently, this year has been one of the worst pothole seasons for Indianapolis.

Pothole map
Commuters swerving to miss a pothole are also on their phones to report the pothole.
Pothole Data
And this is one reason Miami does not have a serious pothole problem.

No doubt, Indianapolis is not the only city challenged by potholes. Nevertheless, it is a good example of a city that does not address its road maintenance budget adequately. It has tried, more recently with a 10 cent increase on top of the 18 cent gas tax, and a hefty vehicle registration fee. And for a long time, Marion County has considered imposing a commuter tax. This would affect those suburbanites from surrounding counties who travel into the city to work. To some Indianapolis officials, it seems only fair that people who use Indianapolis streets and infrastructures should contribute to its maintenance. Just to get poor roads elevated to fair status, Indianapolis requires almost three quarters of a billion dollars and twice its current annual funding to maintain fair status. Many folks believe a commuter tax would bring in the needed funds. But, unfortunately for the city, a commuter tax requires approval from the surrounding counties and guess what? They are not approving. Does the phrase, “Taxation without representation ring a bell?

Open Source Roads
Mike Warren and Chris Lang taking matters into their own hands.

Why can’t the people of Indianapolis have good roads? There is no clear answer here, which must frustrate many Indianapolis residents. So much so that a handful have taken it upon themselves to fix the potholes. Take for instance Mike Warren and Chris Lang, who created Open Source Roads and a GoFundMe campaign to repair Indianapolis’s roads, one pothole at a time. And then there is Quinn Daily who used red spray paint to draw lines around the potholes. Soon after, he noticed that drivers slowed down and avoided the spray-painted potholes. “I was doing this just as a joke, said Daily, “I’m actually doing good!” But, even with good intentions, Open Source Roads can barely scratch the pavement surface.

wanksy
The artist learned that his city could be embarrassed into fixing the potholes.

So, where does this leave Indianapolis’s pothole dilemma? Maybe Indy citizens can learn from an anonymous man from Manchester, England who took to drawing penises around potholes out of frustration over the number of them in the streets. The artist, who calls himself “Wanksy” says the drawings fade within a week or two and are just a creative way of getting something done. Apparently, the city was embarrassed enough to fix those potholes.

Pothole art
The good side of potholes, inspired art.

In the meantime RV travelers, if you visit or drive around Indianapolis, be extra mindful of those road craters. And if you see a couple of young guys filling potholes or another one spraying red paint around them, give a honk and a wave; but please, don’t take your eyes of the road for a second, even if you see a pothole with a penis drawn around it.

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