Amherst needs to take responsibility for infrastructure related damages

The town should be held accountable for damages sustained from the potholes on College Street


Collegian File Photo

By Alanna Joachim, Collegian Columnist

On Feb. 22, I was driving through College Street close to downtown Amherst. The worst of a heavy rainstorm had passed, and more cars were out and about on the roads than earlier in the evening. Traveling past the Dunkin’ Donuts on College St. around 9 p.m., I felt my car hit a large pothole and heard a loud noise that sounded concerningly like metal on pavement. I quickly pulled into the closest parking lot to inspect the damage.

Unsurprisingly, I had ripped open my passenger-side tire from the force of impact of the pothole, but thankfully none of my other tires had suffered the same damages. What did surprise me was that after inspecting my tire, I noticed four other cars in the parking lot facing similar predicaments. Everyone had hit the pothole very recently and were in the process of calling for roadside assistance or a tow truck.

None of us had been able to see the massive pothole in the road that night due to the rainfall, which had completely filled the pothole during the storm. Combined with the reflection from headlights at night, it would have been extremely unlikely for any driver to clearly see the pothole and avoid it in time. Everyone else who hit the pothole had ruined at least one of their tires on the passenger side of their car, and one person even had severely damaged both passenger-side tires. Within an hour or so, Amherst police officers arrived in the parking lot and took all of our licenses to presumably record the incident, and a traffic cone and officer were placed by the pothole. I was never contacted about the incident further.

Not only was this singular night an unfortunate incident for all four cars involved, but I have also heard from friends that this pothole has been causing vehicular damages for a significant amount of time. Yet the town of Amherst still did not completely fill the pothole in or provide obvious signage or warning that the pothole existed. I was told that multiple other people had hit the same pothole at least a week earlier and sustained damages similar to or worse than my car, including totaling their car. The town of Amherst may not have been fully aware of all of these prior incidents, but they are clearly aware of them now, as the police were notified and present on the scene the night that I hit the pothole.

Driving by the scene this last week, I noticed that the town finally decided to completely fill in the pothole. However, for those of us who had to get at least one or more tires replaced on our cars, the town’s actions were too little too late. The town of Amherst should take responsibility for the damages resulting from their carelessness regarding the roadway conditions, especially since multiple people have clearly faced issues with this one particular pothole. It is obvious the weather contributed to such a large number of people hitting the pothole, but with proper and timely management of roadway hazards like potholes, this incident and ones prior to it could have been avoided.

Since the town has a record of the incident, they should contact each of us who were involved to cover the cost of damages in an accident that was unavoidable without proper warning of the pothole. I also plan to submit a claim to the town of Amherst regarding this incident shortly. While I do not know the people who were also involved that night, I would encourage them to do the same. However, I would be surprised if this claim is even processed by the time I graduate in May, seeing as something as simple as a parking ticket appeal from last fall took months to address.

The town needs to do more than just send a police officer to take our names and express sentiments about how unfortunate the situation was. On a larger scale, Amherst needs to place more funding and emphasis on the upkeep of its roads, not just fixing them once multiple people have sustained significant damages. College Street is not the only road in Amherst in need of drastic repairs. One other notable road is South Pleasant Street in the section close to Amherst College, which is riddled with potholes and bumps. The town needs to be held to a higher standard for keeping their residents safe, and repayment for damages sustained by their lack of attention to roadway hazards is only a first step.

Alanna Joachim can be reached at [email protected]