Potholes are everywhere. The money to fix them is not.

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By Kelly Sheridan
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter

Potholes on Hillcrest Avenue in Okemos, Michigan Photo By Kelly Sheridan

Potholes on Hillcrest Avenue in Okemos, Michigan
Photo By Kelly Sheridan

Every year when the weather changes from winter to spring, potholes become more and more prevalent. They damage cars and cause serious hazards for many populated roads. In a state that has one of the worst reputations for roads, Meridian Township is no different.

For Jeff Liska, the potholes are a burden, but he understands it’s because of where he lives.

“The roads are terrible,” the Okemos resident said. “But it’s a part of living in Michigan in the winter.”

Russ Klettke, editor of pothole.info, says most of the issues with roads can be attributed to how old the roads are, and how efficient cars are becoming. People are able to drive further with less gas, therefore the traffic stays the same but there is less money to repair the roads.

“These roads were built fifty years ago, so at the very least they need to repair the cracks before they get worse,” Klettke said.

Last year, Michigan proposed a tax increase to help pay for road repairs and infrastructure problems. It was ultimately rejected, but according to Klettke, it is crucial to put the money out there.

“People want to cut government spending, but it might not be the best thing in the long run,” he said. “For every dollar you don’t spend on maintenance today, it will cost you $7 on repair in the future.”

A diagram of how potholes form. Courtesy of pothole.info

A diagram of how potholes form. Courtesy of pothole.info

According to pothole.info, potholes are formed because of water entering beneath the pavement of roads. Roads are all created to prevent water accumulation, however, when there is a compromise in the pavement—like a crack due to wear and tear, the agents to do so are unable to perform. Once there is an opening in the pavement, water will enter and will expand and contract because of the changing temperatures. As vehicles pass over the affected pavement, the top layer of the road will begin to collapse, creating a pothole.

From 2008 to 2013, Michigan spent an average of $7.3 million for pothole repairs, according to their website. For Roman Collins, a Lansing resident who commutes to work in the Meridian Mall everyday, the taxpayers are not the ones who should be paying for the repairs.

“I think the trucking industry should pay for it,” Collins said. “Michigan has one of the highest weight limits for its roads so they should be responsible.”

Klettke says there is already a burden on the trucking industry, but when gas is so cheap and people are increasingly ordering things to be delivered, trucks become more and more present.

“[Trucks] do pay more, they pay a tax on large wheels and thats how legislatures have put a greater burden on the trucking industry,” Klettke said. “They’re heavier and there has been more trucking than in past years—when gas is cheap.”

Meridian Township currently has its roads paved by the Ingham Country Road Department. Klettke says its important to fix the problems immediately before they get worse.

“When a pothole is small, [they should] repair it before it gets bigger. If they have enough money to do those repairs it will save in the long run,” Klettke said.

A map of roads with significant pothole damage in Meridian Township. Courtesy of WILX.com

A map of roads with significant pothole damage in Meridian Township.
Courtesy of WILX.com

Collins believes they should tear all the roads up and re-do them with more efficient technologies to prevent this from happening.

“They should tear up all the roads fix them all together,” he said. “Invest in technology for better roads that avoids the mess all together.”

There are, in fact, new technologies being created and explored to make more efficient pot hole repairs, said pothole.info. Potholes can occur in many different climates and there are different asphalt concoctions including hot mix, for warmer climates, and temporary cold patches for cold climates. However, the problem is generating the money to make these new technologies possible, Klettke said.

“There are a number of ways they are looking at paying for pothole repairs, but its going to take significant legislative movements,” Klettke said.

Potholes are a significant burden in areas around the country. Until there are efficient technologies to quickly repair them at a low cost, they will always be a problem.

“People need to be rational about it,” Klettke said. “The roads are physical things and they deteriorate over time with weather and traffic.”