Daily Archives: March 12, 2013

Wanted: Examples of bad road repair and maintenance

Freakonomics had a good podcast recently on the issue of funding of transportation funding and the gas tax (“The Downside of More Miles Per Gallon“).

It’s just a short, six-minute segment but definitely worth a listen. Bottom line: As average mileage goes up, the gas tax–which still provides the backbone of all transportation funding–brings in less and less money even while total miles driven might go up. It’s not an effective funding solution.

It also got me thinking again about Larry Geller’s (disappearednews.com) recent probing commentary regarding Honolulu’s dismal track record in road repair and maintenance (“Throwing a shovelful of asphalt in a hole is lousy street maintenance“).

Here’s the guts of Larry’s post:

Maintenance is not Honolulu’s long suit, whether it’s roads or pipes, or the ugly posts and crumbling bridge in Chinatown. So unless money is regularly provided in yearly budgets to maintain the streets, they will fall into disrepair again. How much is needed? Without a step back to do the research and planning, we’ll simply get another layer of poorly done roads that won’t work any better for us.

Before budgeting for maintenance we need to be using the most appropriate, most durable technology to pave the streets in the first place.

Look at the results from the technology we’re now using. The asphalt doesn’t stick, and paint, when it is applied, disappears and is not promptly renewed. Reflectors installed on the highways don’t last and are not replaced. Road repairs (such as on the H-1 near Diamond Head Road in both directions) left a hazardous surface behind and it just stays that way (see here and here). Some areas of the streets and highways are so poorly marked that drivers can be confused about lane markings in the rain or at night.

I’ve lived in places with more traffic and similar rainfall, and the streets were in perfect condition. It can be done. If the city doesn’t know how to do it, step one might be to find out.

Larry goes on to make good use of Google Earth to check out roads in other major cities. Great idea, and it definitely makes the point.

I would ask a few more questions:

• How does Honolulu’s road maintenance compare to the neighbor islands? Better? Worse? The same?

• What is Honolulu’s road maintenance budget, per capita or per mile of roadway, compared to other cities?

• How do the specifications in our road repair contracts compare to those in other jurisdictions? Are those specs adequate?

• Who is getting these road maintenance/repaving contracts and is their work evaluated? Are specifications being met?

I’m wondering how to dig further into this.

How about identifying a few stretches of road with particular repair/maintenance issues, chronic potholes, repaving that doesn’t last, etc.

Then we could start digging into the background of those specific roads looking for answers.

So get in on the ground floor. Share your “bad road” suggestions, then let’s see where they lead.