Opinion: Heavier emphasis needed on timely maintenance, repairs of Manhattan roads

Taylor Shanklin | The Collegian

There’s a saying in parts of the country that there are four seasons: fall, winter, spring and road construction. It’s clear in Manhattan that one of those is here to stay. While it may feel like the roads surrounding Kansas State University are always being improved, for many students it seems like a never-ending battle against the potholes.

While I may not hail from Manhattan, as a college student, it’s where I primarily live. Maybe my home county spoiled me because our roads are in excellent condition. Moving to Manhattan, I remember being appalled at the state of city streets.

Manhattan roads stand as a concern for K-State students and city residents alike. Following the past winter, which saw more moisture and freezing temperatures than the past three winters according to city records, the roads were anticipated by city officials to be even worse than normal.

During last spring’s Public Works update at the April 29 city commission meeting, Robert Ott, director of Public Works, informed the city commissioners that it would take more than $3.3 million to bring Manhattan’s streets up to par. That number is disconcerting considering the city only budgeted $1.1 million for road repair and maintenance.

With the rate of expansion in Manhattan, it’s unreasonable for city officials to not adjust the budget accordingly to account for the much needed road repairs and improvements.

Manhattan’s Public Works website allows residents to report a pothole in their area, but there’s no guarantee that the issue will be resolved in a timely fashion. For example, the intersection of Denison Avenue and Claflin Road, which marks a major corner of campus, is riddled with potholes.

Potholes aren’t just annoying. They can also be dangerous to vehicles. According to the Firestone Tires’ website, potholes can cause tire punctures, wheel rim damage, premature wear on shocks and struts, suspension damage, steering system misalignment, exhaust system and engine damage. I know as a college student, I don’t have the time or money to take care of costly repairs to my vehicle.

“I hate how every time I drive I have a fear that my tires are going to bend or I’m going to lose my bumper or hurt my car,” Allison Dorr, senior in hospitality management said.

City officials are faced with the task of figuring out how to repair these problematic potholes without breaking the bank – a job I don’t envy. In some places, a quick pothole patch may only cost around $9, according to Tulsa, Oklahoma’s city services webpage. However, that variety of repair is far from permanent and will need attention again very soon.

Determining which roads take priority can also be frustrating. Don’t live on a major road or somewhere traveled for businesses? Forget about it. The road I live on, which is incredibly close to campus, was finally renovated after progressively developing so many potholes that it was virtually unusable in recent years.

Jason Hilgers, deputy city manager, stated during the April 29 City Commission meeting that while they strive to repair all the roads, sometimes they have to pick and choose where they can afford to do repairs due to limited budget. Residential areas are often put on the back burner.

Unfortunately, this problem isn’t restricted to Manhattan. All across the country, roads are under-maintained and wreaking havoc on drivers and their vehicles.

AAA estimated in February that drivers across the nation would spend almost $6.4 million in car repairs in 2014 due to pothole damage. While I understand that there are other things to budget for, like education, it seems counter-productive to not maintain roads we spent billions of dollars building in the first place.