Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Slip Slidin' Away

Well, I thought the sun was coming out yesterday after about 8 or 9 days of rain, so I ran a few errands. About once a month, I drive to Fayetteville (about 65 miles away) to tend to some business (OK, my favorite comic shop and Chinese restaurant are there). I even stopped to try a new pizza place which was, quite honestly, not very good. But more on that another time.

Overall, the trip was uneventful, though I did drive around town to see how much things have changed since I moved 3 years ago. Answer: quite a bit. So much has changed, I barly recognize my old home town: new streets, new houses, new restaurants, old restaurants gone out of business. But I digress.

On my way home, I followed my "namesake" US 71 south from Fayetteville. Before I-540 was built, 71 was almost always busy with motorists and overweight trucks running up and down the mountain. Because of some of the tight curves and erratic terrain (up, then down, then up again, then down again) there were signs announcing Road Crooked & Steep Next 17 Miles and 10 People Killed in the last 3 years. Don't you be next. Well, the signs are gone and much of the traffic is gone, but the road still has its twists and turns... except now you can almost enjoy them... almost.

About 5 miles north of Mountainburg, I encountered some small "Road Work Ahead" signs. No big deal, I thought. 71 is an old road (dating back at least 90 years in one form or another) and occasionally needs a little work. Well, I was stunned by the "road work" I encountered:
This was no "road work", this was the road trying to wash away!

Admittedly, this section of 71 has been problematic for years. Too much rain and lack of proper drainage causes the pavement to crack and fall apart which has happened several years in a row.

Here you can see not only the large fissure (approx 3 inches wide x 6+ inches deep), but also the highway department's attempt to fill the crack with some asphalt. If you look a little closer, you can see last year's patch job on top of the patch job from the year before. AHTD's (Arkansas Highway & Transportation Department) solution to the problem seems to be simply paving it over and ignoring it until it happens again. Of course, they are quick to point out there is no money to fix the road properly, yet they are spending $9.8 Million to refurbish four 40 year old bridges between Winslow and West Fork. According to Bridgehunter.com , the four bridges (Mill Creek, London Creek, Sinclair Creek and Hutchins Creek) are not considered structurally deficient, just old.

It appears, at least to me, that ATHD has misplaced priorities: replace 4 old, yet structurally sound bridges or fix a quarter-mile of roadway that washes out every Spring. Hmmm... tough choice.

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