L.A.'s 'Operation Pothole' Ends
LOS ANGELES -- Operation Pothole," a 14-week effort to repair pockmarked streets across the city, came to an end today as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa filled a pothole in North Hollywood.
City crews filled 80,172 potholes during the $450,000 road-repair project, which began Sept. 24 with an initial goal of filling 35,000 potholes and funded by existing city funds.
"Operation Pothole is something I think many people received very well," Villaraigosa said before filling the project's 80,173rd pothole in the 11800 block of Huston Street in North Hollywood.
Although city crews managed to fill a significant number of potholes through the project, city officials said they see no immediate end to the destructive grooves in the street.
"Potholes are like diamonds, they are forever," William Robertson, director of street services, said, noting that it's unknown how many potholes remain on city streets.
"The reality is that until you upgrade the street systems, you're going to have potholes," Robertson said. "There's no magic number out there. We need the public's help in identifying where those are."
Only 5,000 people took advantage of reporting potholes in the area during the project, but many of them gave a long list of problem areas to city crews, Robertson said. About 26,000 of the repaired potholes were located in the San Fernando Valley.
The city fixes an average of 200,000 potholes annually, but Operation Pothole will push that number to more than 280,000, Robertson said. It usually costs the city $5 to $21 to fix a pothole in the city, depending on its size, he said.
The average motorist in Los Angeles spends $671 annually in repairs due to poor road conditions, Villaraigosa said.
Councilman Tom LaBonge said one of his neighbors recently hit a pothole near the intersection of Mariposa and Melrose avenues, causing $1,100 in damages to her vehicle.
"When you drive, drive slow so you don't hit that pothole and hurt your suspension," LaBonge warned.
Villaraigosa also called on Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to fully fund Proposition 42, the Transportation Congestion Improvement Act approved in March 2002 by 69 percent of California voters -- or 3.34 million people.
The measure amended the state constitution to require that gasoline and diesel fuel tax revenues be allocated for street and highway improvements.
The measure was supposed to boost transportation funding by $1.2 billion to $1.5 billion annually for the next 20 years. However, there are proposals being considered in Sacramento to keep most of the money in the state's general fund due to a $34.8 billion budget deficit.
Representatives from the governor's office could not be reached for immediate comment.
The state allocated $11 million to Los Angeles this year through Proposition 42 funds, which will go toward street resurfacing projects, Villaraigosa said.
"It is so essential that this state make good on its commitment to the taxpayers of California, and fully fund Proposition 42, which is so important for transportation funding in cities and counties and is critical in our effort to continue to expand our street resurfacing and repair," Villaraigosa said.
At the end of the news conference, Villaraigosa took off his pink tie, peeled off his suit jacket and slipped a pair of knee-high black rubber boots over his charcoal-colored pinstripe slacks.
He donned a fluorescent yellow Street Services vest, grabbed a shovel along with LaBonge and Councilwoman Wendy Greuel and filled the 6-inch-wide, 3-inch- deep pothole along Huston Street with hot asphalt.
The mayor and council members then packed in the asphalt with the backs of their shovels. Greuel slowly raked the material until it was even.
Villaraigosa's arms shook as he guided the sandblaster over the asphalt to seal the pothole shut. He struggled only slightly, getting control of the machine with some help from a city street services employee.
"It's harder than it looks," he said afterward.
But the pothole on Huston Street was just one of several in the immediate area, neighborhood residents said.
"I think it's great, fix all the potholes, but fix the ones down the street on Huston here before you declare victory " said Laura Berger, who was walking two dogs for her employer, who lives on Huston Street.
Judith Nazemetz said nearby Radford Street, where her home is located, also needed to be resurfaced.
"This is a great beginning, but more needs to be done," Nazemetz said. "But I love the way he handles that machine. I wonder if he irons?"
Villaraigosa, who said he also spotted potholes on nearby Magnolia Boulevard today, noted that residents can still report potholes to the city's 311 information system.
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