Road Work

The Price of Potholes

Jackson Michigan declares “War on Potholes,” but the cities’ method is controversial. Jackson is nationalizing road construction.

Jackson will be the first city to own an asphalt milling cold recycler. According to a local news source, WILX 10, the Jackson Board of Commissioners voted to purchase a Wirtgen 3800 Cold Recycler. This 5 million dollar tractor is capable of deploying a series of appliances that “grind up the old road, add oil emulsion, feed it into a paver and lay down a new road base in one swoop (Mlive.com).” This machine may be the Swiss Army Knife of laying asphalt! The Wirtgen’s 1,000 power diesel engine and a 12 man crew can restore a mile of 2 lane highway in a day.

Those in favor of the Wirtgen feel the cities’ pockets aren’t deep enough for constant the construction required to rid the roads of potholes – the city is plagued with these pockmarks. Currently, it costs the city 300,000 dollars to restore one mile of asphalt, this hefty machine saves the city 100,000 dollars per mile. However, not everyone is ecstatic about the cities’ purchase.

The city of Jackson may be figuratively reenacting the fable of John Henry. It’s true, the Wirtgen 3800 out-guns any construction crew and potentially saves tax dollars, but leaves many Pothole-Patchers without work. It’s said that roads are ready for traffic to return within an hour of the Wirtgen 3800 laying the last load of asphalt (less exposure for orange signs), but is this modernization in methods of road construction worth displacing so many jobs? Michigan’s Infrastructure Trade Association states that “taxpayers will be better off letting the private sector do the work.” It’s not a matter Luddites versus Techies, the state’s economy isn’t in a position to displace construction crews for machinery. In response, the Jackson City Department of Transportation (TJDOT) stated that “road crews will still be used (WILX 10).” The Wirtgen is operated by a 12 man crew. Moreover, potholes may merely be a symptom of a greater illness, Jackson’s roads weren’t built with modern methods of construction; the road’s structural issues go deeper than potholes.

Hefty Machinery is part of the trade, but many believe these tools should be in the hands of a construction crew. This battle has existed since the Industrial Revolution: man versus machine. The human race hopes not to become obsolete in the shadow of its own creation. Whether by man or machine, it’s essential that we upkeep our roads, they connect us in a myriad of ways.

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