Rattled by potholes? Blame it on the rain
© St. Petersburg Times
The roads around southern Pinellas County continue to deteriorate faster than crews can fix them. Mostly, the problem has been the rain.
As I explained in a story last week, heavy, protracted downpours allow water to seep in between paving layers -- and any street that has been around awhile has layers of pavement. This creates a water sandwich, and vehicles traveling over such spots absolutely pulverize the top layer.
As more vehicles pound through those potholes, they can damage the old pavement beneath, creating even deeper potholes.
When the rain persists, the gouges in the roadway fill up with water, making it difficult to distinguish them from smooth, wet pavement. Then they become Stealth Potholes because you can't see many of them before they snap up your tires.
Keep this in mind, because with El Nino persisting in the Pacific Ocean, we're likely to get a lot more rain this winter.
So let's look at a few problem spots, some caused by rain, some just due to a lack of attention to old, tired roads.
The left lane of Third Street S between Third and Fourth avenues is a chewed-up mess. And it has been so for some time. None of the irregularities in the pavement reaches the ranks of official potholedom (that's a technical term), but collectively they make for a very unpleasant drive.
Driving south on 31st Street, approaching First Avenue S, we encountered a major sinking spot in the crosswalk on the north side of the intersection. It looks as if it might be another one of those situations where a deteriorating drainage or sewer pipe is collapsing under the roadway. St. Petersburg gets that a lot because its systems are so old.
The hole jostled us, and we moved over it from a standing start. Hit that darned thing with any speed and your head might wind up connected to the roof of your vehicle.
We encountered that situation on our way to look at another, called to our attention by Libby Steele of St. Petersburg. Libby asked us to take a look at 31st Street S between 15th and 18th avenues S. We did, and it looked fine. Then we drove over it. Sheesh.
The southbound lanes between 15th and 18th avenues S hold major surprises. It isn't that there are potholes. But the pavement rocks and rolls, thumps and bumps like a bad Disney ride. It was not a pleasant experience. Jessie complained of a slight case of motion sickness.
Now this one gets the award as the Eyeball Jiggler of the Week.
Heading south on Fourth Street N, be very careful if you are making a right turn onto Third Avenue N. Stay away from the curb.
The pavement at the corner is beginning to look like Florida's version of the Grand Canyon. Most vehicles can miss this EJW, but if you cut the turn too close, you are risking some damage and perhaps a trip to the garage to have your front end realigned.
Maybe your car's front end, too.
Good news for a change. The new seawall and sidewalks along Coffee Pot Boulevard NE are finished, and do they ever look nice. The sidewalks are smooth as glass, a perfect situation for jogging, skateboarding and in-line skating -- or any other kind of skating.
It's funny, because the smooth new concrete is a true counterpoint for the rough old brick street.
Now don't get us wrong. Unlike most rough roadways, we do not advocate paving over old brick streets, no matter where they are. They are quaint and attractive.
And it occurs to us that because they are always rough and somewhat tricky to negotiate, people slow down when driving over them. It strikes us that brick streets are the perfect, ultimate traffic-calming device.
Forget neckouts, those outward bulges of curb lines at crosswalks that are supposed to squeeze traffic into submission to speed limits.
Forget the horrendous angle parking that begs to have your back end whacked off by an oncoming motorist you can't see because some big sport utility vehicle has blocked your line of sight.
Take up all the pavement in the city and put down brick streets. It won't take long for them to sink and buckle, and for those who truly want to turn downtown into a slow-moving village, voila.
And now, Dr. Delay's Terrible Traffic Tidbits of the Week.
According to a national survey taken in September by the federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, those wild and wacky numbers people, it is estimated that 3.2-million Americans relied on city-to-city bus transportation.
We have no idea why this information would be important to anyone but stockholders in Greyhound and Trailways, but if you are one of those, here you go.
Travel expenditures by international visitors to the United States amounted to $82-billion in 2000, nearly $18-billion more than U.S. residents spent on trips abroad.
I guess there weren't as many of us traveling overseas because we were too busy driving our German-made cars, watching our Japanese-made television sets and drinking French wine, hopefully not all at the same time.
-- Dr. Delay can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com , by fax at (727) 893-8675 or by snail mail at 490 First Ave. S, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.
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