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Roads go to pot

This week, mainstream news outlets have been crowing loudly about the average
Edmontonian’s apparently uncontainable outrage over the sorry state of
the city’s pot-hole riddled streets. And they are, admittedly, pretty
bad: the city’s transportation department estimates that over 400 000
pot holes will need to be repaired this year, more than any year in recent
memory.

Road crews are working 24 hours a day to repair the crumbling roads, but with
only 20 crews (and with the hot job market making the idea of hiring more
help untenable) the city estimates it will only be able to fix between 1 500
and 2 000 pot holes a day.

Drivers interviewed on the evening news or quoted in major dailies are
incensed, relating anecdotes of blown tires and more severe damage, while the
idea of compensation from the city for the damage caused by poor road
conditions has been floated (and, actually, in some cases the city can be
held partially liable for the cost of repairs, so keep your receipt, I
suppose).

The city has committed to work around the clock until all pot holes are
repaired, but admits that patching holes is more of a Band-aid solution; in
reality, many city streets ought to be resurfaced, although that kind of
thing gets rather expensive, especially considering that building new roads
to service new communities will probably remain a priority.

This is an important point: maybe the reason we can’t keep up with road
repairs is because we have, well, too many roads. As Edmonton continues to
sprawl, the amount of roadways per capita increases.

This is doubly stupid in a place like Edmonton. While a reliance on cars and
an aversion to public transit are problems any smart city should be trying to
avoid, in Edmonton we should be even more mindful of reducing the amount of
pavement needed to move people and goods around as roads don’t last
very long in this climate.

Recent census data puts Edmonton’s metro population at over a million.
A city this size, with this robust of an economy, should not be having such a
difficult time maintaining something as basic as a roadway system, even with
our extreme freeze-thaw cycle. But when you have far, far more roads than
your population really warrants, thanks to a deeply-ingrained car culture and
a pathological attraction to sprawling, suburban living, the fact that
there’s almost one pot hole for every two Edmontonians shouldn’t
be that surprising. V

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