Post-Gazette readers share trenchant tales about potholes


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They inspire anger, fear, humor and even a bit of poetry, these potholes of ours.

Mostly anger.

We got a crater-full of responses to our recent appeal for your pothole horror stories, some of them actually printable. We promised to share, so here you go. (Minor editing was done on some replies to fix spelling, punctuation or style.)

There’s no escaping it

Sometimes we spot a pothole when there’s time to take evasive action, only to realize that there’s no getting around it.

Angela Cody of Sheraden drives the construction gantlet on West Carson Street after the Corliss Tunnel.

“You travel through barriers that are just barely big enough to fit a car. Last Tuesday traffic was backed up from the Corliss Tunnel almost to where Chartiers turns to Langley High School … Silly me, I thought traffic was moving OK so I still took that route. My typical morning commute is anywhere from 15-20 minutes to the end of the Strip District. This particular morning it took me an hour! As soon as I got through the tunnel and turned onto West Carson, traffic stopped. There was a pothole so deep that people stopped to very slowly go over it since there isn’t enough room between the barriers to go around it.

“Traffic still isn’t moving all that great at this point and comes to another stop near the end of the barriers where you can go up the ramp to the West End Bridge or continue onto Carson. There was yet another hole in the road, but this one you could go around, just had to be careful. There was one last pothole near the underpass under the West End Bridge. Because of this mayhem I decided to reach out to [Pittsburgh Mayor] Bill Peduto via social media. I tweeted him and tagged him on a Facebook post about the trouble West Carson commuters were having. I got an answer back of ‘On it.’

“The next day all but the last pothole were filled. The person behind us didn’t see it and lost their hubcap in it!”

The Post-Gazette visited the site last week and we are happy to report that it has been patched, at least for now. Driving that cattle chute is scary enough without potholes.

Driving home from Squirrel Hill on the Parkway East, Craig Burland hit a huge pothole that blew out his tire. “I had no chance of missing it seeing I was boxed in and nowhere to go left or right to miss it.”

“Couldn’t avoid one while riding my bicycle through Uptown,” wrote Jahlise Emilie D’Amour Chard. “Got a flat and fell into traffic. Very lucky I wasn’t hit.”

Who pays? You pay

From Matthew Clark: “My wife hit one last month on I-70. Between the new tire and the new rim, we’re out $800. Where should we send the bill?”

Julia Schaffer of Kittanning hit a pothole in South Park in October while going 20 mph on a park road. Her car was not handling well, so she drove to her sister’s house, where her sister’s husband changed a damaged tire. Back home, she went to the repair shop for a new tire “only to discover... OVER A THOUSAND DOLLARS WORTH OF DAMAGE! All kinds of things, bent sway bar, bent axle, broken rim, bent frame, etc. etc. etc. and no one would compensate for ANY of it!”

Jarod Tyler Schrock writes that “in the past five years I’ve bent five rims and damaged one tire on Pittsburgh potholes. The city owes me about $1,500 I figure. For my next car I’m deciding between a tank or a hovercraft to survive our roads.”

Judy Palkovitz of Shadyside blew a tire on Fifth Avenue while driving to Oakland and needed a new one. “As I was paying the bill, I realized that I had just paid the ‘hidden tax’ for living in Pittsburgh,” she said.

Here is your recourse if your vehicle suffers pothole damage:

Pretty much zero.

According to EdgarSnyder.com, you can’t sue the state for vehicle damage incurred on its roads. You can sue a local government if the pothole is on a road maintained by the municipality “but you usually collect little more than your insurance deductible.”

The monster

Remy Porter offers this chilling tale:

“In the film ‘The Terminator,’ horror arose from the robot’s tenacious pursuit of Sarah Connor. Even after being blown to pieces, the monster kept coming. On the short stretch of Walnut Street between Shady and Denniston [in Shadyside], there’s a similar menace.

“This pothole is probably a decade old. It is a large depression that swallows most of the westbound lane. It’s so large that it hides in plain sight, and even the most observant driver will miss it until they feel their car drop six inches. The city has come, time and time again, to try and kill this menace. Each layer of patch they bury it under simply adds to its power — the weight simply drives the depression down deeper. In that narrow street, there’s nearly no way to avoid it.

“Listen and understand. That pothole is out there. It can’t be filled. It can’t be patched. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until your suspension is trash.”

The Post-Gazette drove the street and observed the great depression of which Remy speaks. Frankly, we saw a lot worse menaces around the neighborhood, including a pothole on Denniston that loosened our bicuspids.

Dude, that’s really deep

Shawn Huilker writes: “My wife and I hit one last weekend by the Chatham [University] Gate House. I thought our car was going to fall into it. A couple days later someone put an orange cone in it.”

“My dad … told me if I wanted to go to China just drive around Pittsburgh! There is a pothole deep enough,” wrote Ray Oeler.

Robert Joseph Biller goes for the same punch line: “Am on death row awaiting execution after running over a Chinese dude climbing out of a deep pothole on 279!”

They felt the earth move

Former resident Ron McCandless was taking his son to the University of Pittsburgh for the start of classes in August 2011. In Oakland, “we hit a few bumps and potholes driving by the hospitals which we felt (as usual). After turning left on Forbes, we got a call from my sister-in-law sitting at our house in Maryland. Apparently we somehow missed the earthquake that was felt in Pittsburgh and centered in Virginia a few seconds earlier. Because of our experience with Pittsburgh potholes, we mistook the earthquake for potholes or simply couldn’t tell the difference.”

The blitz

One of his first moves upon taking office was Mr. Peduto’s 72-hour “blitz” on potholes. How’d he do?

Robert Dudek: “Looks like new mayor is on the JOB!”

J.R. Graff: “So much for the mayor’s pothole ‘blitz.’ HAHA. Shadyside and South Side are still atrocious!!!”

Silver lining

Fred P. Seifried says he loves potholes. “I call them ‘SPEED HOLES’ — they work like speed bumps but don’t cost as much!”

Pothole poet laureate

Ed Folino was inspired to write a poem, “Pothole City,” which goes on for 10 verses. We only have room to share a few:

Pittsburgh is number one in a lot of categories, but this is one we seldom brag about.

It’s the number of gigantic potholes, which have caused many tires to blow out.

I feel sorry for anyone who visits our city; they are in for a huge surprise.

When they see the size of these suckers, they’ll hardly believe their eyes.

 •

I told my neighbor’s kid to watch out for them; you know kids, they never follow an adult’s advice.

One day last week he fell into a huge one, and came out covered in white rice.

 •

So if you see a car approaching you and they suddenly swerve into your lane,

They’re probably dodging a pothole, they’re neither suicidal nor insane.


Jon Schmitz: jschmitz@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1868. Visit the PG’s transportation blog, The Roundabout, at www.post-gazette.com. Roundabout. Twitter: @pgtraffic.

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