American motorists should know that pothole problems are not limited to the United States. Pavement is pavement, all over the world, as well as the inevitable potholes. Enough so that in the United Kingdom there is Mr. Pothole, who self describes as “the National Pothole Campaigner in the UK.”
Mr. Pothole (a.k.a. Mark Morrell) tours the country, works his messages through social media, and is an organizer of National Pothole Day in the UK. Held on January 15, 2015, the program helped launch a reporting app that engages citizens in road assessment. It was broadly supported by political leaders and local streets authorities.
In the U.S., similar attention is lent to pothole repair but conducted on a local basis – and perhaps a little less theatrically. Some examples:
- In New Jersey, the state Department of Transportation, faced with more potholes than usual after a grueling winter – 300,000 in 2015 versus 180,000 in a typical year – has launched a pothole reporting website and phone line (800-POTHOLE) and has 13 pothole filling machines deployed across the state.
- Cincinnati has a campaign underway in 2015 to address an estimated 20,000 potholes there. The city’s mayor is calling on residents to report via a smartphone app, online or a call center number (513-591-6000). The city is reporting the status on reported potholes on its website, promising repairs within seven days.
- In New Orleans (yes, even in warm-weather climates potholes happen), the ABC-TV affiliate WGNO-TV features a “pothole of the day” on its website. Videos first broadcast on the news program includes nearby residents who experience the pothole on a daily basis. Selected potholes get a sandwich board sign to warn motorists.
- In West Chester, Pennsylvania, the city 25 miles west of Philadelphia with a population of 18,400 has eight crews dedicated to filling potholes this spring. Motorists here are urged to phone PennDOT (484-340-3201) to assist with identifying the worst cases affecting traffic. This part of eastern Pennsylvania was badly affected by the winter of 2015.
In North America as in Europe, the pothole problem is a matter of basic science: Cracks in pavement will harbor moisture which, when subjected to freezing, expand to cause a bigger crack. As water seeps below the top level of pavement, erosion, more water and refreezing result. Ultimately the sub-pavement washes out and a pothole develop. Problems are most acute in low areas where water collects, such as where roadways dip under viaducts.
Back in Britain, Mr. Pothole uses social and traditional media to get the message out and prompt repairs. “I took pictures, reported [the potholes] via my website and posted them on Twitter,” he told Pothole.info about National Pothole Day. “The next day I went out and, surprise surprise, the councils had fixed many of them. Strange what happens when Mr. Pothole hits town.”
Indeed, Mr. Pothole, reporting works pretty well on both sides of the pond. For more, read up about SeeClickFix, an app available to American volunteer pothole-killers.