Spend 20 minutes watching TV news and you’d think the biggest transportation problem today is the auto industry. Bailouts, bankruptcies and acquisitions by foreign companies command the lion’s share of media attention – enough so that we forget about another very expensive transportation problem affecting virtually every driver in the country.
As motorists, the pothole is one of the most notorious foes we encounter. Fabricated from nothing and created by no one, the elusive pothole manifests itself with a certain subtlety wherever it pleases and wreaks havoc indiscriminately on those unfortunate enough to cross its path. Like a lion stalking in tall grass, the pothole waits, with unsurpassed patience, for an unsuspecting prey to fall into its trap.
In 2009, GEICO began a series of commercials featuring talking inanimate objects doing damage to cars. So far, they have used a talking tree limb falling on a windshield and breaking it. The tree limb makes fun of the car right before a smaller limb falls on the hood. The next one is a talking pothole with a thick southern girl accent causing a flat tire. The pothole somewhat apologizes…
Quaker State motor oil recently began a marketing campaign asking consumers “Who has the world’s worst commute?” Forgiving their willful ignorance to include Cambodian motorbikes and Parisian pedi-cabbers, Americans have apparently come forward with some horrific feats of daily strife. Twenty-seven miles in two hours another with forty in three. Ridiculous mileage – years spent motionless in traffic.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood told The New York Times Magazine reporter Deborah Solomon, “America is one big pothole” in its June 14, 2009 issue dedicated to the country’s infrastructure. From an historical perspective, he might as well have said America’s military and economic strength is crumbling. Since ancient times, the existence and quality of roads have made and broken empires.
We all know how aggravating it can be to navigate over a pothole; the shocking jolt that spills your coffee on the way to work or evokes shrill screams from children in the back seat. If these were the most severe consequences, potholes would be relatively minimal road annoyances, perhaps more on par with an obnoxious bumper sticker or the kid that pulls up next to you listening to his…
Streets and highways are falling apart while local and state governments struggle with other budget crises. Yet our economy is dependent on ground transport of people and goods. The solution? Start with smarter potholes.
Chicagoans like to gripe and complain about winter weather and its close companion, potholes. But being hardy Midwesterners, we are able to take the bad with the good. We always find the upside.
Route 66, the first cross-country (actually, Chicago to Los Angeles) motor route and which sped America’s migration west, embodies a kind of cool that spans generations. A two-lane ribbon of asphalt, concrete and an occasional pothole that stretched for more than 2400 miles, Route 66 is a road from the past that shows us everything we need to know about travel in the future.