Opinion

Prioritize potholes

Lost in all the damage and discomfort caused by a weekend’s worth of howling wind and torrential, ocean-borne flooding is the state of local streets and the growing pothole menace.

Potholes are part of winter and drivers manage to grimace and bear them; at least until spring arrives and the offending depressions become a last annoying reminder of winter and its troubles.

Then again, late winter is probably a good time to wonder if a better plan of attack needs to be launched against potholes by area public works departments and state transportation officials.

The current plan of attack calls for “cold patching” to temporarily fill offending potholes until asphalt manufacturers open their plants for the warm weather road repair season and more permanent “hot patching” work can begin on hundreds of streets and roads around the region.

Pothole patching usually precedes but sometimes seems to parallel street repair work with public works officials drawing up a list of streets slated for repaving and sending in the heavy equipment to get the work done.

Instead of paving a few dozen streets annually in a city the size of Lynn, maybe public works departments should draw up a pothole list and craft work schedules to hot patch potholes during summer months.

Devoting resources and money provided by the state to fixing potholes may make more sense than undertaking road reconstruction jobs that take several days to do. Not every street in every community can be reconstructed every year. But filling every pothole on every street sounds like a reasonable proposition, providing potholes become the top road construction priority at the municipal level.

Drivers don’t expect to drive down perfectly smooth streets or through intersections equipped with the latest signal technology. But they do expect their tax dollars to pay for road work sufficient enough to keep their vehicle out of the repair shop.

Road reconstruction projects, even ones on side streets, cost a lot of money and create a necessary inconvenience for residents living on a street and people driving on it. Big road projects like the reconstruction of Broadway through Wyoma Square or Humphrey Street in Swampscott, take years to plan and weeks, if not months, to do.

They generate gripes and complaints about noisy and dusty work or irksome detours. Once the work is finished and drivers are treated to smooth, newly-paved roads, there is rarely a spontaneous celebration with drivers waxing ecstatic over their refurbished roadway.

The lowly pothole is an annoyance that makes people grumble about poor municipal spending priorities. Most people like to think their tax dollars are spent wisely at the city and town level. Potholes offer an easy reason to reject faith in government spending decisions and complain that “nothing gets done around here.”

Roads need to be rebuilt for any number of reasons, including traffic flow and safety, but people deserve to get behind the wheel and know they can get from here to there without blowing a tire or cursing at a pothole.

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