Massachusetts Daily Collegian

One too many potholes

Potholes: the second leading cause of death for 2004 Honda Accords

By Henry Dowd, Collegian Columnist

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If you’re like the majority of college kids, I’ll bet you have an affinity for driving. Sometimes there’s nothing better than whipping down the street with the windows down bumping “God’s Plan,” pretending you’re Drake in your 2004 Honda Accord. Simultaneously, I know there are a bunch of students who have a moderate disdain for driving. Driving can be stressful, especially in Amherst where there are a significant number of drivers who’ll provoke a honk, a death glare and a loud expletive. However, there’s a commonality that all drivers, seat-back ballers and conservative motorists share when driving on the roads near the commonwealth’s flagship campus: the potholes.

If you’re reading and find yourself saying, “Wait, he’s right, the roads here are about as hole-y as the Patriot’s secondary in the Super Bowl against a back-up quarterback,” then you’re not alone. In just the past month, there have been six reported potholes and while all have been acknowledged by the Amherst Department of Works (DPW), only two of them have been addressed. Potholes are an inherently dangerous feature of operating a motor vehicle. Pothole Information reports that of approximately 33,000 traffic fatalities each year, one-third involve poor road conditions. With motor traffic expected to increase by 25 percent by 2030, that percentage will only go up. Concurrently, it is logical that as the technology surrounding cars improves, potholes will become less of a threat. But in lower income areas, older cars are more prevalent, leaving drivers vulnerable to these falsely mundane and commonplace aspects of a motoring experience.

Amherst, like many small towns, is not a rich place. Looking at the local Amherst government budget proposal for fiscal year 2017, painful fiduciary disparities regarding road maintenance and reconstruction are visible. In the report itself, the Amherst financial committee conceded that “The Department of Public Works is struggling to meet [their] expectations for adequate roads” and that the road repairs account is significantly in debt — $632,063 in debt to be exact. The town also writes they face a serious obstacle in employing people who are adequately knowledgeable of how to repair the roads themselves, noting the DPW is inadequately staffed. However, in their unanimously-approved budget, the town of Amherst elected to run a “level services” budget, essentially maintaining the current operational status of all its facilities with only minor modifications. Given that the projected revenue of the town will continue to drop over the next few years due to an aging populous needing transfers, and an increased amount of physically and cognitively handicapped children with special education needs, that isn’t such a bad idea.

The Amherst financial committee has to prioritize its schools, public facilities, water supply and the well-being of those unable to care for themselves — I don’t think there’s much of an argument to say that preventing Chad’s dad from paying for his flat tire is of proportional significance. However, there is a need for accountability regarding this issue.

If at this point you are feeling disparaged by the bureaucratic nightmare that is local government, try to relax. Due to the the technological advancements made with asphalt, new inventive harsh-weather polymer-modified asphalt is available in the market. While the material itself is expensive, its increase in price is offset by the associated decrease in cost of labor, given that the polymer-modified asphalt doesn’t have to be heated and then cooled like generic asphalt, which requires teams of people working for multiple hours.

Considering Amherst’s limited DPW staff, this could be seen as a beneficial alternative to the status quo regarding road maintenance. Barring any other unforeseen variables, costs or devastating natural disasters, this could decrease the accumulated debt from road repairs, enabling the town to appropriate its funds to causes that are of higher social prerogative.

I’m sure there are more complications conjoined to this issue than I’ve addressed. At least, that’s what I’m sure the town of Amherst and my local political science professor would tell me. But still, it bears mentioning that potholes are problematic and that something, both monetarily and commonsensically effective, should be done about them. I don’t want to be driving my sweet Honda around town on roads that are going to scrape the bottom of my car more than the Cleveland Browns scrape the bottom of their division.

Henry Dowd is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]

3 Comments

3 Responses to “One too many potholes”

  1. Ellen Chambers on February 20th, 2018 8:26 am

    Henry:

    Where did you get your information that the numbers of physically and cognitively handicapped children with special education needs is increasing? Where did you get your information that these individuals are not able to care for themselves?

    I have worked in the field of special education advocacy and activism for 21 years. I am unaware of any basis for these two claims.

    Ellen M. Chambers, MBA
    Founder: SPEDWatch, Inc.
    [email protected]

  2. Henry Dowd on February 20th, 2018 11:31 am

    Please check the Amherst budget report cited in the article regarding your concerns.

  3. Observer on February 20th, 2018 4:10 pm

    A few questions:
    -Who’s Chad? And why is his father so willing to pay to repair his tire?
    -What’s the first leading cause of death for 2004 Honda Accords?
    -Who said the elderly and people with disabilities couldn’t care for themselves? (Also, while we’re on that topic, the word “handicapped” is a bit dated. It’s better to said “disabled.”)

    Also, on Facebook, the headline “Potholes, the biggest obstacle yet for present day college students” is perhaps a bit overstated (and includes a grammatical error, as it should be “present-day). What about debt? Access to mental health facilities? Finding employment and internships?

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