When Guadalajara Mayor Enrique Alfaro began to speak about baches at a press conference this week, I was rather hoping he would announce a contest – with a new car as the prize – to identify the biggest pothole in the city.
As the undoubted winner, I could then ditch my stinky old jalopy that this week almost disappeared under a rush of raging rainwater while parked on an innocuous side street.
Unfortunately, the mayor made no such announcement, thus failing on the citizen engagement front. Instead, he talked of how the bache blight was mushrooming out of control and revealed that councilors were about to approve the purchase of weirdly named British “velocity patching” technology that will allow work teams to throw away their buckets, shovels and wheelbarrows and race around the city filling in each pothole in a quicker time than it takes Usain Bolt to win a gold medal.
Anyone who has driven on Guadalajara’s streets during the rainy season can be forgiven for questioning their entire raison d’être for coming to Mexico. Regardless of the sturdiness of the vehicle you own, and however honed your driving skills may be, the toxic mix of flooded streets and no-holds-barred potholes will eventually catch up with you. The easy answer, of course, is not to drive on inundated streets and risk coming into contact with a hidden, bone-rattling, axil-destroying pothole. Just park your car and proceed on foot. Oh, I tried that and … my poor car!
Mayor Alfaro is a rather somber politician who is earning a reputation as a model of efficiency, and he was in no mood to lighten the ambience at his recent press conference. He quoted stats, noting that city officials have “identified” exactly 121,000 potholes that he vowed to fix by the end of October with the help of the new equipment. He also urged citizens to report any new ones, asking them to send in photos and locations to city hall via What’s App. (Won’t replace Pokemon Go as the latest smartphone trend, I’m guessing.)
Comments made the same day by Alejandro Reinosa Villegas, Guadalajara’s director of pavements, did far more to raise a knowing smile. For all intents and purposes, he said, filling in potholes is a worthless exercise, as they will simply reappear in a short time. Even advanced “velocity patching” equipment only guarantees that a filled pothole will endure for two years. A massive repair/repaving program is the only way to properly regenerate the city’s crumbling arteries, Reinosa declared.
The stumbling block to smoother streets, he said, is money. Three billion pesos ($US160 million) is required to repave just 15 percent of the municipality’s most damaged streets – although that doesn’t seem such an outrageous amount when compared with the staggering $US127 million price tag of this week’s Democratic Party Convention in Philadelphia.
Reinosa – who is fast becoming the city’s pothole boffin – also said that a more selective, scientific approach to tackling the pothole problem is required. Without elaborating, he revealed there are “more than 40 different types” of pothole, and pointed to the metro area’s antiquated drainage network a principal cause of the problem.
Knowing the scientific properties of each pothole I am forced to negotiate on the city’s hazardous streets is of little concern to me. However, I give my full backing to the “experts” and politicos to use every tool in the box to try and resolve this recurring annoyance.