Did you hear about the freeway that ate the firetruck? It’s no joke.
The big storm that rolled through on Feb. 17 had most of us nervously eying the damaged spillway at Oroville Dam. But the torrential rains have also played havoc with the roads, with sinkholes and potholes the size of Volkswagens appearing at alarming rates up and down the state.
And so San Bernardino County firefighters watched helplessly the other Friday night as one of their engines tumbled off the side of Interstate 15 in Southern California. They were on scene to assist with a big rig that the freeway had already claimed. I-15, of course, is the main thoroughfare between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
About 90 miles to the southwest in the Los Angeles suburb of Studio City, a 20-foot sinkhole appeared on Laurel Canyon Boulevard, taking two cars and injuring one driver.
This wasn’t the first time recently that the roads have opened up and pitilessly taken a few cars in the process. In July 2015, a bridge along Interstate 10 between Palm Springs and the Arizona state line suddenly collapsed and partly washed away during a freak storm. An investigation later found that the bridge had at least four crucial design flaws that led to its failure.
No doubt about it: Our roads are terrible. Everyone knows this. Crawling or idling in bumper-to-bumper traffic every day is a fact of life for millions of commuters. A recent study by a private transportation analytics firm ranked L.A. traffic as the worst in the world. (Although, in fairness, the study didn’t include China.)
It’s also the case that California’s roads and highways are crumbling faster than work crews can repair them. Municipal road workers cannot patch and fill quickly enough, even when the weather is congenial.
Fun fact: Caltrans in 2015 received 4,106 claims from motorists for pothole damage. The agency paid just 423 of them. Why so few? Because most of the responsibility falls to cities, which lack the manpower and the money to keep up with demand. For a city like L.A., the tab will run into the hundreds of millions, if not billions.
And statewide? It’s a $500 billion problem. Easily. . . .
Read the rest in the Sacramento Bee.