Last weekend, a couple of calls came in to my voice mail from motorists wishing to report potholes.
Now, I do pass these reports along when I get them, but that may lengthen the delivery time by as much as several days depending on timing. So it’s probably better to call your local municipality, or county engineer’s office, or the Ohio Department of Transportation directly to report your potholes.
Toledo’s pothole hotline is 419-936-2867 (936-BUMP), while the Lucas County Engineer’s Office is 419-213-2860 and ODOT in Bowling Green is 419-353-8131. Pertinent phone numbers for most other jurisdictions are readily available on the Internet.
ODOT also can be alerted by going here and filling out a pothole report, and there’s also a link on that page to the Ohio Court of Claims, which is where you should go if you want to file a claim for pothole damage against the state. I wouldn’t count on getting much back for a busted tire or bent rim, though, unless you can prove ODOT had been notified about a particular pavement defect and had ample time to do something about it. The same holds for a pothole on a city street or county highway, though those claims should be made in local courts. More likely to succeed is a claim one might make for damage to a private vehicle or mailbox caused by a plow.
Along with the Anthony Wayne Trail, which is the city of Toledo’s problem, I-75 through downtown Toledo is likely to have recurring pothole trouble this winter. At least with that piece of road, drivers can take a bit of comfort knowing that it’s scheduled for reconstruction starting this spring. The lane closings will be a pain in the butt for two construction seasons, but at least it should be bump free for quite a while after that. Rebuilding the Trail, conversely, is still a need in search of funding, and rebuilding it isn’t going to be cheap.
I’ve gotten perhaps a half-dozen phone calls, meanwhile, and one postcard written in tiny cursive handwriting complaining about the inadequacy of snow removal last week on various Toledo streets. This is pretty much par for the course any time Toledo gets more than about six inches of snow. Let’s face it, folks: Toledo just isn’t very well equipped to keep up with that much snow, much less more. The city has something like 1,100 lane-miles of streets, and even with “sister division” trucks called out to assist with smaller streets, it just doesn’t have the equipment or manpower to stay ahead of storms like the two we had within six days of each other this month. It doesn’t help when people leave their cars parked on the narrower residential streets, either -- it really does keep plows from getting through in some cases.
What I learned last week that astounded me was that the Monroe County Road Commission has even fewer trucks than Toledo does, despite having greater lane-mileage to maintain plus its having contracted for plowing on state highways. Apparently whatever money Monroe County gets from MDOT isn’t enough to pay for a few extra trucks to do that work? Then again, many Monroe County roads are pretty awful year ‘round -- that’s been a recurring theme from that part of Blade Land for the entire 20+ years I’ve been here, and writing stories about it doesn’t seem to have any effect.
If money really is being poured down a hole somewhere in Monroe County, I’d love to hear how, but otherwise I can only surmise that there’s something wrong with the road commission’s income stream. Officials’ inability to declare travel bans during a storm like the one early last week doesn’t help matters, either.
Clearing sidewalks, meanwhile, is supposed to mainly fall on landowners, but compliance in Toledo is spotty at best, and it doesn’t help that in some places, responsibility is ambiguous. I took a ride along Glendale Avenue on Monday and the sidewalk conditions along nearly the entire length of its eastbound lanes were atrocious. In the residential areas, most of the houses that have frontage along Glendale face various side streets in their subdivisions and are fenced-off from Glendale, so the property owners may not even consider the Glendale sidewalk to be their problem. At a reader’s request after the Jan. 1-2 snowfall, we published the relevant section of the Toledo Municipal Code requiring property owners to clear their portion of the public walk within 24 hours of a storm’s end. But as in the past, there seem to be no consequences for neglect.
I also happened to have some idle time along Central Avenue in Sylvania Township and discovered that sidewalk shoveling -- or lack thereof -- is not exclusively a Toledo problem. A colleague says the issue also has come up in Northwood. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve been to any commercial district in the area this winter where anyone seemed to care much about sidewalk conditions -- perhaps because many businesses are tenants, their landlords aren’t present, and so nobody polices how plow contractors simply shove parking-lot snow into huge piles that block sidewalks and foul up visibility for vehicles exiting driveways.
Maybe the most disturbing example, though, was this one on Newton Street, right across from Toledo’s main post office. I would think the post office, whose carriers refuse to deliver mail if a walk hasn’t been cleared to the mailbox and who travel sidewalks all the time, would be more conscientious about sidewalk conditions, but apparently whoever plows out the parking lot off Newton isn’t so concerned. This glacier they built on the far side of Newton, completely burying the public sidewalk, will be gone by when, exactly? April?
Now, I’ll admit, there aren’t a lot of pedestrians in Toledo. The band Missing Persons once wrote about how “only a nobody walks” in Los Angeles, but that must be doubly so here. But is that a cause or an effect of this neglect for sidewalks? Perhaps a little of both….