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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

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In Milwaukee Buzz Commentary

Even with all the repairs being done, Milwaukee streets are still a mess. (PHOTO: Bobby Tanzilo)

Some pothole repairs are nothing more than a bad joke


I've got a great joke for you.

A truckload full of tar and workmen came to my block and fixed all the potholes.

(Long pause)

Not funny? Of course it isn't funny. Funny is when people laugh. Well, I'm not laughing about this.

I live on Humboldt Boulevard in Riverwest. I live between Capitol Drive on the north and North Avenue on the south. The stretch has been pothole hell for months and months.

Two weeks ago I was going home and drove past a truck of workmen in those yellow safety jackets pouring that tar mix, or whatever, into a pothole and then tamping it down.

Praise be, I thought as they were moving north on the east side of the street. It won't be long now before the minefield in front of my house is patched.

Imagine my surprise then when I discovered that those workers had somehow missed the potholes in front of my house and for a stretch of about two more houses to the north. They then got back to work and filled the rest of the craters all the way to Capitol Drive.

For a moment I wondered if this was personal. After all I've been writing about the horrors of our roads for several months and I've been full of criticism for the city over this. But no, they couldn't be taking it out on me, could they?

I was going to call the Department of Public Works to see if they knew what happened. But I've called them before and I always get a dance around the maypole and absolutely no answers to any questions I've had. I'm positive the cooperation level wouldn't be any better now.

So I set out to examine things and see what I could come up with.

I surreptitiously watched the crew of five or six workers who were patching the west side of Humboldt. There were a couple of things I noticed.

For one, they were incredibly slow. I mean it was almost like they were moving in reverse. Nobody seemed to really be in charge so there was a lot of standing around watching one or two guys tamp down the tar.

Next thing I noticed was that nobody really seemed to have their hearts in this thing. I mean you can usually tell when people really care about the job they are doing. They call it hustle in sports. In business they call it focus. Well, there wasn't much focus or hustle going on here.

Sometimes someone would tamp five or six times on one hole. Other times there was just one tamp per hole.

And finally there is the junk they put in the pothole. Now, I'm not a chemist or an engineer, but I looked at this stuff. It seems like some kind of tar mixed with something else. All I know is that it comes out of those potholes pretty easily and it sinks down so that what was a real, real deep pothole is now just a deep pothole.

Near the north end of Humboldt on the east side is a stretch of road that looks like something they'd use in "American Ninja Warrior" or something. I had almost $700 worth of work done on the front end of my car after driving over this place all winter.

The holes here got tamped. But you still have to slow down to about five miles an hour when you go over them and turn quickly to try and dodge the holes you can.

I'm sure everybody in the city, including our mayor, is very proud of the work they are doing to fix the streets. But it's really a shell game.

Or a joke.

Talkbacks

crackerbat | July 7, 2014 at 3:43 p.m. (report)

good hourly pay with little to no possibility of getting fired? Why would you think they'd work any faster?

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DTtoBurbs | July 3, 2014 at 9:59 a.m. (report)

Agreed, Dave. That asphalt needs to be tamped "tightly". Usually, it compresses to below the level of the road to become just a "deep pothole", as you said. Ideally, they would overfill it and then tamp, or less ideally, come back and "top it off". But they don't, so we're left with these semi-potholes. Honestly, I think they expect our cars to do the tamping that they won't do. Near my office on the north side, there were several large 3' x 4' problem spots in the road, which the city patched. Well, those real, real deep potholes became deep potholes, and guess what - now the city has come back, dug up the patches, and replaced with concrete. Seems to me it would have been more efficient and less costly to we the taxpayers to have done it right the first time. Yes, the number of potholes requiring filling is absolutely huge, but if you're going to fill one, shouldn't it be done right? I can certainly appreciate the hard work of driving a snow blow through blizzards in the middle of the night and some of the other tough jobs they do, but it seems like city workers are doing nothing to fight their stereotype of doing poor quality, inefficient work.

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