Driven crazy by potholes

March 11, 1994

Just when you thought it was safe to go on the road again. . .

Not to jinx ourselves, but there's a chance we've seen the last of the snow, sleet and other "weather events" that can make even a short drive to the market a harrowing experience. Yet the effects on roadways from what is generally considered the worst local winter in decades will not be fading anytime soon.

Goodbye, ice. Hello, potholes.

This trying winter has produced the biggest collection of street divots in recent memory. Divots is actually too tame a word for some of the holes that lately have separated countless cars from their hubcaps. Try crater, pit, gaping maw. These are holes that would frighten the shark from "Jaws."

Perhaps the only people happy about the situation -- besides auto mechanics -- are the kids in northern Baltimore County who reportedly have been using a particularly pockmarked street off Falls Road to give their mountain bikes a good workout.

Local governments are not thrilled with the task they face. They must patch holes and repave entire stretches of roads while somehow replenishing public works budgets already depleted weeks ago by the inordinate number of snow- and ice-falls.

Baltimore County is typical in that it is projecting a final tally of potholes well above its past record -- 48,900, set last year. In Baltimore City, road crews began patching 1,000 holes a day just after the snow and ice storms of mid-January. Harford County officials concluded the problem was so bad that they would need the public's help; thus Harford's "pothole hotline," which began buzzing with reports of road-crater sightings shortly after its implementation in late January.

Highway officials in Anne Arundel and Howard counties decline to keep pothole counts (maybe now they will start), but they estimate that the road damage is two to three times greater than they have encountered in prior years. Damage has also been unusually severe in Carroll County, where county and municipal officials say road crews will be working into the summer to repair the ravages of the past few frigid months.

It has been a long, difficult winter. Even when Mother Nature finally sends some warming relief, our automotive maneuvering around, over and through all those potholes will be a constant reminder of the tribulations we have endured these past few frigid months.

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