Editorials, Opinion

Goodbye potholes and one-way streets? Maybe

R.I.P Potholes

Gov. Jim Justice proudly announced operation “R.I.P Potholes” — an unusual off-season hot-asphalt pothole patching effort.

As much as we criticize the West Virginia Division of Highways and the Justice administration about the roads, we have to give them credit where credit is due. Asphalt plants generally close down in the winter and don’t come back online until spring. Therefore, most winter potholes are fixed with “cold patches,” which will do in a pinch but aren’t as effective as using hot asphalt.

The DOH and Justice administration negotiated with asphalt producers to warm up temporarily so road crews could take advantage of February’s unseasonable weather to send potholes off to “rest in peace” in the great wide roadway in the sky.

The thing about potholes is they are a tenacious bunch. A hot-asphalt mix may technically “repair” them, but they will come back sooner or later. A patch still has cracks and gaps that moisture can penetrate; when the next freeze and thaw cycle comes through, the water’s expansion and contraction will shake the patch loose, and the pothole will re-emerge — likely wider and deeper than before.

So while we appreciate what Justice, the DOH and the asphalt plants are doing to address some of the worst spots, the reality is operation R.I.P. Potholes is not a long-term solution. Where the potholes are most persistent, the road needs to be scraped down to the base layer and repaved entirely. Unfortunately, that will have to wait for (real) spring at the earliest.

In the meantime, we’ll take the patches. But it’s going to be less of a “goodbye” and more of a “goodbye for now.”

One-way streets

Virtually no one likes one-way streets. They’re confusing, even if you are familiar with their placement, let alone for newcomers unfamiliar with the area’s peculiarities. They’re annoying, especially if you have to drive out of your way to reach your destination — never mind if you accidently drive past it. And they can be dangerous if someone starts driving the wrong way, especially if its a one-lane one-way street.

In an article for “Transfers Magazine,” Geoff Boeing and William Riggs wrote that one-way roads actually encourage people to drive faster, whereas two-way streets make drivers slow down,   “improving safety, accommodating multimodal travel, increasing livability and property values and helping customers more easily reach businesses. … Two-way street networks create safer and more pleasant environments for those who walk, bike, use micromobility or take transit.”

Sounds like everything Morgantown would like for its downtown — an area that currently has the highest concentration of one-way streets in town.

It also sounds like the city and Morgantown Monongalia Metropolitan Planning Organization are  open to  swapping downtown’s one-ways for two-ways. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as changing signs and painting new lines.

Pretty much all the main one-way thoroughfares are actually state-owned roads, including High, Spruce, Walnut and Pleasant streets. That means no changes can be made without state permission and participation. The MPO has gotten the ball rolling, but considering all the hoops to jump through, we imagine we won’t see those one-way streets go away anytime soon.