Atlanta’s potholes: Repair crews added while some consider new ‘pothole posse’

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.

potholes

These potholes on Early Street illustrate the extent of the pothole problem if repairs weren’t made. This area is near a construction zone in Buckhead. Credit: David Pendered

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.

potholes, repaired

Peachtree Street, in Midtown, has numerous potholes and utility trenches that have been convered with metal plates before they were repaired. Credit: David Pendered

“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.

 

potholes, metal plates

Atlanta has 99 metal plates in place to cover potholes, according to a new report from Atlanta. These are located on Irby Avenue, along a construction area in Buckhead. Credit: David Pendered

 

pothole, filled

This pothole has been repaired by a crew that left debris from the former hole in the gutter of Roswell Road, at the intersection with Piedmont Road. Credit: David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

7 replies
  1. brainstar8 says:

    Other than the $17 million that Reed decided to spend on a neighborhood swimming pool, what happened to the money from the referendum Atlantans approved nearly three years ago – for streets and roads and other infrastructures? Were some of those funds spent on lawyer fees for the homeless guy who caused the I-85 collapse? Oh, maybe not – but any talk of Atlanta’s streets and roads, and all the intrigue that accompanies them – can become very confusing. Whatever the conversation is, we have city officials who can travel to any far-away places they wish, but we still have potholes, ruts and plates that clang and vibrate throughout the night as (some) people try to sleep.Report

    Reply
  2. Cathy Yarbrough says:

    I’m one of the early victims of the new syndrome, “Fear of Atlanta’s potholes.” My disorder can be traced to the four flat tires that my new Prius experienced in its first two and one-half years on Atlanta’s roads. To prevent the syndrome, City of Atlanta’s government only has to fix the streets of Atlanta. Hey, City of Atlanta government, do something!Report

    Reply
  3. David Edwards says:

    Here is the link to the Renew Atlanta website: http://renewatlantabond.com/ .You can find all the projects and their status there. Total of $250M. Lots of resurfacing projects in here, many of which are completed.

    When Shirley launched the Pot Hole Posse, the acting Commissioner of Public Works said there were 724 potholes in the City. We filled over 3,300 in the first three months. We created a tracking system as part of AtlStat to make sure we could track the numbers going forward. Not sure whether that the system is still being used.

    By the way, the City has 1,704 miles of paved roads. In 2008 we estimated that it would cost $255M to eliminate the paved road backlog in the City. My guess is that Renew Atlanta has taken a small chunk out of that, but we really need a series of Renew Atlanta-like bond issuances to really solve the problem. My back of the envelope calculation suggests that since Shirley left office, the total infrastructure backlog (streets, sidewalks, bridges, etc) has grown from $750M to around $1.2B.Report

    Reply
  4. Chris Johnston says:

    Lest we forget, Mayor Franklin’s much hyped Pothole Posse fell into a pothole after about 6 months and was seen no more. Much sound and fury, signifying nothing.Report

    Reply
  5. Greg Streib says:

    I am curious about the strategy. Maybe we have too many roads? Too many cars tearing them up? How do we compare with other leading cities on road miles and parking spaces? Miles driven? I imagine that would be controversial, but let’s start with gathering the facts.Report

    Reply

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