by Toby Sells
Memphis Mayor A C Wharton unveiled a new, state-of-the-art truck to fix potholes Wednesday and a summer-long initiative to fight blight in the city.
The mayor and the Memphis City Council invested $200,000 in a new truck that will more efficiently fix potholes in city streets and fix them better than previous methods. Wharton said the truck is the first of three the city will buy to fix city streets, what he called a form of blight.
“People talk about boarded-up houses but the ugliest thing anybody has ever seen is to hit a pothole and get a $1,000 bill (from the mechanic to fix the damage)," Wharton said in a Wednesday morning news conference. “That’s uglier than any other building. (Potholes are) a form of blight and we’re going to do something about it.”
Wharton said the new program, called “Taking It To The Streets,” will use the three trucks and 16 new, seasonal workers to increase the city’s pothole-filling capacity by 25 percent-35 percent. This year, crews have repaired more than 426 streets and filled more then 29,000 potholes, Wharton said. But, “they just keep coming and we can’t keep up. That’s why we go to do something different,” he said.
The new trucks not only fill existing potholes. They allow crews to cut the entire faulty area around the pothole. Material from the space is removed and patched with asphalt. This method, Wharton said, would make a longer-term fix to the hole.
The new program, estimated to cost a total of $500,000, comes as city council members are debating the cash-strapped city budget. When asked if the city could afford the pothole program, Wharton said “we can’t afford not to do this.”
“People are coming to Memphis, Tennessee and they ride down the street and feel like they are on a buckboard,” Wharton said. “They’re going to say, ‘We’re going to Birmingham or we’ll go on to Nashville.’ Yes, (the new program) will pay for itself.”
Memphis Public Works director Dwan Gillom said the new initiative could also extend the life of some streets and could push back some road re-paving schedules.
To report a pothole call (901) 636-6500 (or dial 3-1-1).