Whats up with road construction?

Well here i am in the center of the road construction capitol of the world, Chicago, IL. Every direction I go I drive into some friggin new project. Done in the middle of rush hour no doubt. What is it that keeps these roads from staying in one piece? We put a man on the moon, but we can’t make a rod that’ll stay in one piece. We have a bad winter and the roads look like Berlin after WWII. We have a heat wave and the roads buckle like the San Andreas. They build a road from the ground up, a year later they need to close it so they can widen it. Where is the kink in the system? They can forsee the need to widen roads? They can’t see that its cheaper in the long run to buy the better surface material? Is it politics, money, engineering? Does the state like having roads under construction? Do they think it tricks us into thinking our tax dollars are going to good use? Does anyone know why I sit in traffic every time I go some where?

The primary culprit is water and its solid form, ice. Water gets into every tiny crack in the pavement, then freezes and expands. The heavy trucks then pound the living sh*t out of it till there’s nothing left but crumbs.

Water and ice bring mountain ranges to the sea. Even if IDOT paved with marble or granite we couldn’t win.

Ha, if they paved with granite, you would end up with gravel roads :).

Out here in California where I live, since we don’t get a lot of freezes. We don’t have too many problems with potholes. I cant even remember them having to fix any potholes on my street since they resurfaced it.
Occasionally, where the water collects in winter (we get rain then), you see some pot holes (and a lot of shattered asphalt). The work crews are pretty quick in fixing them (a bucket of asphalt and something to tamp it into the hole)

I hear in one city near here, they are repaving the entire main street because the street is in such bad shape it’s almost as bad as a dirt road.

Well, I know that its not going to last forever, but gimme 4-5 years at least.

Here in St. Louis, they repaved a bunch of roads last summer. Then the winter brought a lot of snow, which was plowed inadequately (or not at all). Once the snow packed into dangerous ice, they had to send out special “scraper” trucks to get rid of it; these tore up the asphalt as well as the ice.

Now all this summer, they’ve been closing psrts of interstates for repaving. I’m waiting to see if they plow as badly next winter.

Omni, I’ve been paying attention to the expressway maintenance program here in Chi-town for about 30 years, and it seems to me they do superficial resurfacing about every five years and a complete roadbed to surface rebuld every 10-15 years.

It’s the Stevenson’s turn right now, and the last time they did that one was about 1986. Considering the volume of car and heavy truck traffic these roads carry, I think they hold up remarkably well. Of course, that doesn’t help when you’re stuck on the Dan Ryan for 45 minutes because some IDOT bozos closed a lane with a line of traffic cones and then went off to eat lunch… for about 3 days.

(At least Ryan has decided to do something about that &#% Toll Highway Authority… argh don’t get me started).

I work construction, i have worked on bridges and on roads. If anyone ever has the chance, you should get out and go look underneath some of these bridges. You would wonder how they remain standing and then know why it has to be done. I realize construction is an inconvenience, but the people want better roads to travel, except they don’t want to wait for it to get done. Also, us construction workers would appreciate it if people could learn that the construction signs are meant for everyone, not everyone else. Just slow down a little and take your time through the site, besides all fines are doubled.

I live in Michigan…road construction capital of the freaking universe. One thing I have never been able to understand is how Michigan, which was at one time the car capital of the universe, has such crappy roads. I know it’s not the fault of the construction workers…when I’ve seen road repair completed, it always looks great. It’s sending them out there to do the work in the first place. And we’ve supposedly got a surplus in our budget?

The roads in the city where I live, Flint, are particularly horrible. I’ve lived here for 8 years, and I’ve seen the streets in my neighborhood plowed exactly 5 times in those 8 years. That is not the fault of the street maintainers, either–the mayor makes the call as to when to send the plows. I know some of the plow drivers, and trust me, they get mighty honked off when they don’t get called and they know damn well they should be out there. They know the damage snow & ice can do to the roads. When they do get out here, I swear, my neighborhood practically gives them a ticker-tape parade.

Okay, I’m done ranting.

Omniscient – you kind of answered your own question. Illinois gets lucky with weather – we have extreme cold and extreme heat! Whoopee! As some have already pointed out, ice is a big culprit. But just the general weather extremes are bad also. In warmer climates, they can make roads to better withstand heat. In colder climates, they can make roads to better withstand cold. In Illinois, they throw up their hands in dismay.

Cristi: I hear you. I’m a Michigander, too. I think that overweight trucks are another big culprit. And seeing how the weighing stations are hardly ever open, those trucks must be stuffed to the gills as they’re barreling down I-96 and I-75. And just like Illinois, Michigan has both hot summers and cold winters, so our roads cannot be “specialized” like roads in Arizona or Alaska would be.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

You think you’ve got it tough? Here in FL, potholes have a nasty tendency to be 50 feet across and 30 feet deep!

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Well, Stephen, if ya wouldn’t build roads on swamps, that wouldn’t happen! :wink:

When I gazed upon the title of this thread I thought that Omniscient was going to ask why it is that 99% of the time when you pass by a road construction crew, one guy is working and 6 others are standing there or leaning on their shovels watching!

Contestant #3

As a civil (always!) employee in the fair state of IL, I endorse the comments about the extreme weather fluctuations and heavy traffic being resposible for potholes. As a fellow sufferer who last weekend braved both the mess around Midway and the Stevenson, must say it does cause some frustration.
But may I please interject a plea for some decent respect for the, yes, hardworking folks who repair the roads? They are out there in all our brutal weather, braving road rage cretins and doing hard physical work. If they are standing around, they are probably taking a break. Hey, we all take breaks, but most of us don’t have crabby onlookers gritching about it. During that dreadful heatwave in August, I’m sure they were having to break just for water about every 15 minutes just to stave off heat exhaustion and dehydration. In fairness, can you name any profession where there isn’t a certain amount of wasted time anyway?
I don’t mean to criticize or downplay the frustration, but the hapless working folks who are trying to solve the problem aren’t the cause of the problem.
–>dismounting the soapbox and fleeing
in confusion…<—

C #3 reminded me of a Wizard of Id comic I saw last year.

Guy sees 6 construction workers, only 1 of whom is working. He asks “What’s with those 5 other guys just standing around?”

“Oh, they’re Union.”

Seriously, each state gets a certain amount of dedicated highway funds each year from the Federal government. If they don’t spend all the money, they can’t justify asking for as much the next year. So, they find roads to extend, lanes to add or whatnot just to burn up the funds. The same principle applies to almost every government agency. That’s where a lot of the waste comes in.

One of my pet peeves is the snow removal budget around here. The city seems to go over its snow removal budget every single year. So why don’t they add more to the budget? the cynic in me says it’s because it is easier to justify a budget deficit when you can say, “Sorry, but it snowed so much we went over budget. That’s where the money went”.

The reason they don’t just “add more to the budget” is they rarely have more to add to the budget. Money doesn’t grow on trees, they still have to remove it forcibly from someone’s pocket via gasoline taxes or other wonderful instruments of destruction.

Here in DC, we have a dual problem. The winter ice problem, and the summer heat problem. Roads on hills with heavy traffic (especially traffic that stops & starts a lot) tend to melt and flow a little downhill. You can actually see the lines of crosswalks misshapen by this melting.


I was in Michigan recently, what’s up the trucks with 30 or 40 wheels? Is that to help reduce road damage?

“At least Ryan has decided to do something about that ?% Toll Highway Authority… argh
don’t get me started).”

I use the tollways (strictly on weekends) and I don’t think that abolishing the Toll Highway Authority and transferring the toll roads to IDOT is a good idea in the least.

  1. Nobody HAS to take the tollways if they are such a pinch-penny that they refuse to pay 40 cents toll. The surface streets and highways are still there.

  2. If you think the tollway congestion is bad now due to the toll plazas, take a look at the "express"ways in the city! Having tolls separates out the people making short trips or who aren’t in any hurry from those who are traveling longer distances or who are in a hurry.

  3. "Free"ways aren’t free! They have to be paid for from taxes on motor fuel (gasoline and diesel) or from the general tax revenue. While people in metro Chicago kvetch about paying tolls, do you think the Assembly members from Downstate will vote to have everyone in the state (read: their Downstate constituency) pay higher fuel taxes for ex-tollways that operate strictly in the Chicago suburbs? Not on your nelly!

A final comment: how come people who hate the tollway because they think that “free” roads are a God-given right are often the same people who slam transit subsidies as “pork” and government waste because train and bus commuters should “pay their own way”?!?! If I take the subway downtown to Disney Quest, I pay $1.50 fare, while tolls out to Great America work out to about 50 cents. Need I say more?