Poplin: Paralysis
by asphalt-alysis

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What’s your main gripe about local roads? Sound off via email at theannmag@gmail.com, visit @TheAnnMag or facebook.com/theannmag or call 734-369-4239.

Ann Arbor’s good at lots of things. In fact, almost everything. But it’s really bad at fixing roads.

That’s obvious to anyone who drives a car around here, but it will be even clearer after your read this month’s centerpiece story by Lynn Monson.

The city has turned a relatively simple process into something unimaginably complicated. Where some cities see a pothole, Ann Arbor sees a bit of data. Where some cities might fill in that pothole, Ann Arbor makes sure that pothole is placed appropriately on the data hierarchy and – after baselines have been established, protocols followed and plans reviewed – may or may not fill in that pothole.

Did you know that the city this year hired a consulting firm to drive every inch of all 300 miles of city streets, documenting their condition with special instruments and video? We already know what the final report will say, in so many words: “These roads are horrible, and some are worse than others – especially the ones with those really big potholes. Somebody ought to do something about those.”

City leaders clearly want logic and science in their corner when they’re discussing expenditures of taxpayers’ money. That’s a wonderful attitude and it has served this town well. (See: “Ann Arbor’s good at lots of things. In fact, almost everything.”) But it doesn’t really work when it comes to road-paving, where quick, subjective decisions are sometimes required.

Now, it’s your turn. Tell us why you think Ann Arbor’s streets have come to so closely resemble wagon trails. Has reliance on data totally inhibited decision-making at City Hall and, if so, is that something you can live with? Let us hear from you.

Kyle Poplin

Kyle Poplin is co-founder and editor of The Ann magazine.