What Wasted Effort Looks Like

It may appear to be an abstract image there on the right of this column, but actually it’s a very literal representation of what wasted effort looks like.

It’s a snapshot I took yesterday of a bit of cold patch on Fourth Street. I’ve written about this particular pothole dozens of times on this blog and others, for the simple reason that, after years, even decades of attention, it persists.

I’ve called it in to Bureau of Street Services around ten times myself, and, bless their hearts, they’ve patched it. Others have called it in, with cold patch diligently applied as a result. I even took the time to search for the source of the endless water flow that had undermined the street, called it to the city’s attention, and then, along with Stephen Box and others, kept nagging the bureaucracy. Eventually, the city helped a homeowner whose flooding basement was being drained into thew gutter, thereby ruining a public street, to hook his sump pump directly to the storm drain under Hudson.

That made a big improvement: before, patch jobs would last only six or eight weeks before breaking up and leaving a jagged hole to trap cyclists on this popular bike route. Now patches last a bit longer.

But not too long. Because the BSS never bothers to remove the broken concrete at the bottom of the hole before shoveling in some asphalt. The jagged slabs then rock back and forth under the weight of passing cars and spit the asphalt right back out. The photo shows the first little disruption in the patch, but soon the whole will return to its former hideous glory and look like this again:

The sad fact is that I have personally (though, I admit, with little hope) recommended to BSS that they pry the broken slabs out of the hole before adding asphalt. I grew up among concrete and construction, as my father was a structural engineer I even helped him with experiments in curing concrete as a teenager. I’m not expert, but I know a few small things about the built environment.

Of course my suggestions were ignored, and the same tired cold patch was thrown in over the same devious slabs.

This latest patch is breaking up again only three weeks after it was made.

Yeah, it would have cost more to pry the broken concrete out. It would have cost even more to patch the hole with concrete instead of asphalt, to match the rest of the street.

But how much has it cost to send a truck and crew out to fill the same damn hole around fifteen times?

The story of this pothole is a diary of wasted efforts. In the name of saving money, the city has thrown far more cash away.

And the pothole will return to threaten innocent cyclists on one of LA’s favorite bike routes.

Can’t we do a little better than that?

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One Comment

  1. Posted July 18, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    For all the buzz about bike lanes and new bike racks, I think one of the best things Santa Monica does for cycling is keep to a regular and preventive scheduling of street repaving (except where street is owned by Caltrans). I’m sure in the long run the greater upfront cost is saved by not having to deal with deep structural damage that layers up over time from half-assed patch work like this glaring example.

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