4 November 2022

When does a pothole become a sinkhole become a blackhole? Meet the pothole that will not die

| James Coleman
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Pothole on Majura Avenue, Dickson. Photo: David Murtagh.

According to folklore, Albert Einstein once reportedly defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

Perhaps he had lost a tyre to the Dickson pothole.

Of course, there are worse out there. For instance, the lunar-sized crater on William Hovell Drive just off the Tuggeranong Parkway has claimed tens of rims and tyres over the past week alone.

Lyle Dunne recalls passing “a string of cars” pulled over along William Hovel Drive, with traffic-control officers directing cars around a massive pothole.

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“I thought RBT or a multi-car shunt, but it seems like the mother of all potholes had claimed a dozen tyres (as many poor sods changing wheels in the rain),” she posted to the Canberra Notice Board Group on 1 November.

But for longevity, the one outside a block of townhouses on Majura Avenue in Dickson has few peers. It even appears on Google Maps, with a ‘Hazard Ahead’ sign in front of it.

A nearby resident (name omitted for privacy reasons) has lost count of the number of times it’s been patched.

“They’ve been filling it up so many times, but the next week, it’s back and worse,” she says.

“It’s unbelievable. This is not a little hole – it’s more than a metre long now.”


There it is, as captured by the Google Maps van in June 2022. Image: Google Maps.

The resident recalls hearing the thumps of wheels being destroyed and the pumping of horns and screeching of brakes as motorists try to avoid it at the last minute.

“It’s horrific. They have to do better, proper work on it. We pay our taxes so they can fix the road. Do they expect someone to die before they fix it?”

Amelia O’Grady has been left with a $120 bill after popping a tyre in it on Tuesday. As she was installing her spare, another three cars also damaged their tyres, hitting the same pothole.

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“This pothole is awful,” she says.

“Surely, if they get enough complaints, something will be done.”

Amelia has lodged a damage claim with Roads ACT in the hope she can get reimbursed for the damage. But the truth is, she is one of the lucky ones.

Scott Sparkman from Downer-based wheel repair company Rim Rescue had 13 wheels dropped off yesterday (3 November) for repair – “a record”. Up to 20 per cent are damaged so badly they can’t safely be repaired.

“The weekly load of wheel repairs has tripled in the past month, and we’re seeing a dramatic increase in the severity of the damage,” Scott says.

This translates to large dents and cracks in the wheel that leave the owner with only one option: forking out anywhere from $500 to $3000 for a replacement wheel. And if their car doesn’t happen to have a spare, a wait time spanning days to weeks.

Scott says it’s a hard conversation considering the current cost-of-living pressures.

But even he agrees the nine lives of the Dickson pothole are like few others.

“I travel all over Canberra to pick up and drop off wheels and I get to see the ones that are patched – few as often as Dickson. It’s got to be at least 30 times now.”

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He says it was first born when the nearby two-storey units were built in 2018 when heavy trucks and concrete pumpers would park and drive on the same patch of road day in and day out.

“The road base now has no integrity. They could patch it until the cows come home, but until they excavate and raise the level of the road so the water drains off into the stormwater channel again, it’s never going to be fixed.”

In the 2021-22 financial year, Roads ACT repaired close to 7800 potholes at an average of around 650 potholes a month. So far, in the first four months of this financial year alone, crews have already repaired more than 5000 potholes.

The Dickson pothole has resulted in a lane being closed. Photo: David Murtagh.

“Our repair crews are working around the clock in what are very difficult and unpredictable conditions,” an ACT Government spokesperson said.

Two different mixes are used depending on the weather. A cold gravel mix is shovelled into a reported pothole as a temporary fix before crews revisit it during a break in the rain with a more durable hot mix.

“Where possible we are applying temporary patching, particularly on key arterial roads until we can return and undertake a more permanent fix,” the spokesperson said.

As for the Dickson pothole, a portion of the lane around it was closed today as crews filled it with a hot asphalt mix. Again.

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In the meantime, Roads ACT asks Canberrans to slow down, maintain a safe distance from the car in front, particularly in the wet, and report hazards to Fix My Street.

As for what happens when it’s too late, an ACT Government spokesperson says, “responsibility for damages associated with any claim will depend on the circumstances of the incident”.

“Each claim is assessed on a case-by-case basis. Assessments of claims are carried out in accordance with current legislation.”

Typically, this means the government must have received a report of the pothole first to hold any liability.

Scott from Rim Rescue also has two pieces of advice to minimise damage from potholes.

“Keep your tyre pressures at the recommended amount and don’t ignore any warning signs. Ignoring a deflated tyre or low tyre pressure warning is when the really serious damage to wheels happens.”

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Capital Retro5:16 pm 15 Nov 22

I just received a flyer in my mailbox from Jonathon Davis, Green MLA advising Canberrans with pothole and other similar problems to contact Fix My Street on https://qrco.de/bd8Zqw

Hey, isn’t that a GDR address? No wonder things are taking so long to fix.

Decades of neglect are starting to pay dividends.

Potholes form when the substrate is compromised (or washed away) – if you just fill it with hot-mix the pothole will be back. To prevent the pothole recurring, you have to repair the substrate, not just “band-aid” over it.

Pot Holes in the Road

I guess it’s all the rain we’ve had that’s made the roads so very bad, but how are we to fix it?
From time to time the Council blokes, prompted by complaining folks, come along and concrete readymix it.
When it rains again, the concrete lifts, and thereupon the problem shifts, the pebbles in the concrete spray all over,
And smash your headlights, wreck your paint, sympathetic the Insurance ain’t, your precious Volvo or Historic Rover!

Now, one poor bloke in a MiniMoke thought it’d be a funny joke to take a run at a hole and try to clear it.
But sad to say, it went astray, he only made it just halfway; his cry of woe so loud we all could hear it!
Then one bright spark thought it’d be a lark, when he watched the little Mini park; he brought some paint and a brush to sort it out.
He painted white lines around the hole, erected signage on a pole, and the MiniMoke became a roundabout!

Another local thought it lax that he paid the Council so much tax, and they wasted it on hospitals and schools.
His journey to work a slalom course, quicker if he went by horse; so he went to the shed and gathered up his tools.
He’d show those politicians how bad were these conditions, and he planted a huge gum tree in one pit,
And this committed greenie, in a “Save the Koala” beenie, placed a fluffy little toy on top of it.

Your Council’s really not to blame, roads everywhere are just the same; no wonder the repairs are incomplete.
So when these potholes make you swear, don’t merely leave the matter there, do something that would brighten up your street.

“Our repair crews are working around the clock in what are very difficult and unpredictable conditions,”
They’re not building a highway through the Amazon rainforest for goodness sake

Capital Retro12:12 pm 05 Nov 22

Next thing they will be blaming Morrison, wait, he’s gone.

How about we pin it on climate change instead?

Just the other day saw a road crew try and repair a large pothole in Dunlop. The hole was almost full of water. They filled it in with cold gravel/tar, did not drain out the water and dry the hole, just tamped it down with shovels. You guesed it water went everywhere and they just kept tamping it down and then drove off, job done. Went past the same pothole a few days later and of course all of the gravel was gone down the gutter. Bodgy Government and bodgy contractors. Fix the holes properly in the first place, dry the hole and use hot gravel/tar mix.

And here’s me thinking Q Anon members were only found in the USA

Capital Retro5:14 pm 05 Nov 22

But they don’t use gravel anymore. Instead they use light weight feel-good recycled plastic which ironically ends up in oceans where they are trying to divert it from.

Well Franky22, I didn’t know Nimbin was a suburb of Canberra

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