There are several unofficial signals that Summer is upon us. Memorial Day. The first of the numerous summer festivals. And that bane of T-Town existence, the return of the orange barrels.
As the aging infrastructure of our swampy burg decays, there is a never-ending futile attempt to catch up on badly neglected maintenance. Back in the booming days of the aughts, He Who Shall Not Be Named frittered the abundant city coffers on foolish projects. Then the economy crashed, and there was no money to fix streets and sewers.
Now the economy has recovered, and the back-log of needs is booming. Hence the ubiquitous orange barrels of misery.
Two things frustrate us about the frantic construction season. One is the construction zones, like the current zone at Monroe and Secor, where no actual work seems to ever get done. The barrels slow traffic to a crawl, with no noticeable progress. It seems like the barrels are there as a test of will.
The other source of frustration is, dare we say the word, potholes.
The ‘P’ word
Potholes are on everyone’s mind these days. They shock the senses and ravage vehicles. Orange cones are placed in the larger ones to make sure motorists steer clear. The cones eventually get blindsided and knocked to the curb, while the offender pothole grows and sneers its defiance.
The City crows about the number of potholes fixed each week. That doesn’t appease the howling masses, however. Any initiative of any kind that doesn’t include patches and asphalt is followed with demands. Fix the damn streets!
Universal pre-K? Fix the damn streets! Improved mass transit? Fix the damn streets! A chicken in every pot? Universal Basic Income? Free ice cream for all?
Fix the damn streets!
Look, we get it. There are streets in T-Town that make the surface of the moon look as smooth as a plate of glass. We’ve got rumble strips where none are intended. Entire cars have been swallowed by our streets.
We also get that there are myriad other needs facing the swamp. Universal pre-K is a good idea. Ditto improved mass transit. And the streets will take time, and money.
Meantime, we trust that city leaders can keep their eyes on more than one prize at a time. Raise the City’s standards, AND fix the damn streets.
Band-aids on the wound
One last specter haunts our thoughts on this, though. The streets and the unseen infrastructure below them are extremely old. They pretty much all need to be replaced, and in short order. The current efforts are just putting band-aids on an open, festering wound.
It’s gonna take a massive infusion of cash to ever get ahead of the pothole game. Money that doesn’t exist in the current budget.
A creative fiscal solution to this orange barrel conundrum is needed, and fast. Will anyone take the political risk to find one?
City leaders, we’re looking at you.