America's one big pothole


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"America is one big pothole right now." - James Howard Kunstler.

Potholes are the discussion right now, as always this time of the year. City governments increasingly struggle to pay for the repair of the potholes while politicians make promises to fix them. But guess what, the potholes do get filled in the spring, they always do.

But how long will we be able to afford to keep filling them? Can we afford the technologies that are available to limit the frequency of pothole filling, or should we simply look into ways of reduction?

Let’s face it, Colorado Springs, as long as we are putting asphalt on our roads, the seasons change and we drive cars, potholes will always be an issue.

We need to reduce our asphalt footprint. It is excessive for our population.

We need to take a surgical approach to the reduction and take the low hanging fruit first. We have excessively wide roads throughout our community, including residential streets constructed to accommodate on-street parking even when covenants may not allow on-street parking. We have other over-engineered roads like Bijou Street, east of Union, that a plane could land on in mid-day. We have excess, and this excess is a major contributor of maintenance — not to mention stormwater runoff.

Let's cut some of these high costs and put more toward mobility and infiltration options like wider sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and stormwater infiltration.

I implore we citizens to look at our roads and streets to see what can be done. A great resource of information to see what your street design dimensions could be is from the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Thoroughfare Design Manual “Designing Walkable Urban Thoroughfares: A Context Sensitive Approach."

In general, lane widths should rarely be wider than 11 feet and parallel on-street parking should take up no more than eight feet from the curb.

There will be excuses as to why reducing our asphalt footprint can't be done. Traffic engineers will grasp tatthe threat of congestion, under the false guise that congestion is solvable. But if we are truly a conservative city we need to decrease our expenditures, and asphalt is a great place to start.

We have enough places for our cars. Let's work on transforming these underutilized places for people, and save some money in the process.

John Olson is a licensed landscape architect, residing in Colorado Springs. He serves as the Director of Planning and Landscape Architecture for EVstudio Planning & Civil Engineering. He is also a co-founder of Colorado Springs Urban Intervention, which implemented Better Block Pikes Peak in 2012, the recent Walkability Signage found in Downtown Colorado Springs, and perhaps most notably, Curbside Cuisine.

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