By David Pendered
Potholes and the metal plates that cover some of them are enough of a problem that one member of the Atlanta City Council has suggested the city consider reconvening the “pothole posse” formed by then Mayor Shirley Franklin to fix crumbling streets.
Atlanta City Councilmember Marci Collier Overstreet marveled during the council’s Transportation Committee’s meeting last week that Atlanta has just 99 metal plates on the road. That figure came from a presentation by Public Works Commissioner William Johnson.
“One of a number of things stood out while you were presenting — metal plates,” Overstreet said. “I saw the number at 99. It feels like a million. I feel like I’ve hit all 99. Plates are a big issue and it’s amazing to me that we’re talking about 99 around Atlanta.”
Overstreet said potholes were a major subject of conversation at a March 8 meeting at Vicars Community Center, at 838 Cascade Road. Residents reported that roads by Vicars are potted, as are streets over by John White Park, she said.
“Shall we reconvene the ‘pothole posse?” Overstreet said. “There’s a lot of pothole conversation around the city.”
Overstreet hastened to add that repairing potholes in some roads is needless because so many streets are due to be resurfaced. The work is part of the city’s ongoing program to repair roads, bridges and other public infrastructure.
Cascade Road, for instance, is in line for a $3.1 million upgrade to a Complete Street. The project includes resurfacing the road, installing and repairing sidewalks and granite curbing, and installing bike lanes and bus shelters as space permits. The project is funded through the 1 percent transportation sales tax that Atlanta voters approved in 2016.
This harsh reality led to Overstreet’s final lament.
“We have Complete Streets coming, but in the interim we’re experiencing horrible streets [and] we don’t want to be repaving because it is going to be a throwaway,” Overstreet said.
Johnson sought to assure Overstreet that the road repair crews in the Public Works Department are working diligently to repair the city’s streets — and will step up the effort.
“We will quadruple our resources in addressing potholes,” Johnson said. “We are adding folks to [fix] potholes — one crew in each quadrant.”
The city tries to repair potholes within five days of receiving a report or spotting a hole, Johnson said. The process involves sending an inspector out to determine the nature of the pothole. Pothole is a common term, he said, used to describe everything from a trench dug for a utility to a hole resulting from a leaking water pipe to a metal plate that has shifted and no longer covers a pothole.
The material used to make the repair is an issue, Johnson said. Hot asphalt works better than a cold patch, but hot asphalt isn’t always available. The department is evaluating ways to purchase hot asphalt from additional vendors.
Johnson portrayed the city’s streets as grizzled survivors of the recent winter, which brought some trying conditions to asphalt roadways.
“We’ve had a long winter, a very wet winter,” Johnson said. “A number of days with freezing temperatures, and that will expand the universe of potholes in the right of way.”
Atlanta has 1,430 miles of paved streets, according to a report by the Georgia Department of Transportation. The number is closer to 1,700 miles, a former public works commissioner, Richard Mendoza, said a few years ago.