Wage war on potholes

brokencoverforeditorialMinister Michael Lashley, it is time to roll out the road patching machinery!

The rains have only just begun, but already it is apparent that the respite presented by the extended dry spell has all but disappeared and all over Barbados roads are breaking out into potholes. It is spreading like a bad rash, and unless corrective action is started immediately, the island’s perpetually angry driving population will become even more upset.

But in all fairness to the crews of the Ministry of Transport and Works, we should all tip our hats to them because we can’t help but be amazed when we at times juxtapose what they have to work with again the task they have to undertake.

Think about it, when we see an MTW truck turn up in some of our districts with a full load of hot asphalt, you know that if properly applied it should last no more than 100 metres, but these resourceful workers manage to stretch it for kilometres.

They have to choose which potholes to tackle and which to leave for another day — or more accurately, another year. Then there are the fissures that can’t properly be classified as potholes when they develop at the end of the road. They start at the broken “gutter” and move toward the centre of the road with the passage of every truck or bus, and throwing “tar and stones” in them offer ease for a few days, a few weeks if we are lucky.

But with the arrival of the rains everything becomes exaggerated. Our view is that the ministry needs to approach this challenge from two distinct fronts — patching and repaving. There are roads all over Barbados that may not have potholes covering the surface, but nevertheless they are the most uncomfortable on which to drive.

This is so because for decades they have not seen a “Barber Green” machine — there are residents in their 40s and 50s who can swear they have not been paved in their lifetime. Instead, their grater-like surfaces are a mixture of colours and textures from years of applying patch after patch, when patching has long ceased to make sense.

It is time for the Ministry of Transport and Works to identify such roads and publish a programme indicating the schedule for their refurbishment. Simultaneously, the ministry must identify the roads that can be “treated” with hot mix in pot holes. What we don’t understand though, is why it should take as many as two or three months before a pothole is addressed. That does not make sense. Every day crews should be setting out from the depots on patching missions.

On the matter of scheduled surface maintenance, why is it that in 2013 manhole covers over culverts and sidewalks are not a standard size. It is absolutely ridiculous that signs warning of danger can be left for months jutting out of these holes.

If the covers were a standard size, and extra covers kept at each depot, it would not be necessary to dispatch a truck with a sign, two months later dispatch a crew with a cover or the material to build the cover at the scene [a job which can itself takes weeks] and then take the sign back to the depot, or the latest broken cover. Instead of dispatching a crew with a warning sign, they would be dispatched with a replacement cover!

Maybe we are missing something, but that doesn’t seem so difficult!

One other note. Someone must tell MTW’s top brass that they need to convince right-thinking taxpayers that this new technique of “weeding the road with Bobcats” is not pushing money down the drain.

Each time one of these tractors operates at the side of the road it tears off the edge of the asphalt, and with every heavy shower the road gets narrower. Bobcats may be faster, but isn’t coming back to repair the road after a few years more costly?

In the Scotland District it is worse because huge tractor crawlers are deployed to do the work, and they don’t take small chunks of the asphalt. We understand why the heavy machinery is used, but it ought to be done under more controlled circumstances. We just can’t afford otherwise.

Whatever you do though, Minister Lashley, do it soon because the only ones profiting from these potholes are the mechanics and the car parts importers!

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