Apr 6, 2022 - News

The Pothole Posse returns to fix Atlanta roads

Illustration of a pothole with a spray-painted no sign being drawn over it.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Don’t know if you heard ‘round the saloon… but tell the metal plates on Spring Street that the posse’s back in town. The Pothole Posse, that is.

Driving the news: Mayor Andre Dickens said during Monday’s State of the City address he is resurrecting the strike force that promised to fill potholes within 72 hours.

  • The Pothole Posse initiative originated with former Mayor Shirley Franklin, who famously promised that the city would meet the repair deadline or she'd fill the potholes herself.

Why it matters: Atlanta’s pockmarked and cratered streets are a minefield for motorists and bicyclists, cause wear and tear on vehicles, and can cost the city — aka taxpayers — tens of thousands of dollars in legal payouts a year.

Dickens said the posse — the mere mention sparked a snicker among the crowd — will soon start patching 30 potholes every day.

Flashback: Much like Dickens, Franklin announced at her first State of the City address in 2002 that she was launching a special public works team to address potholes. (Seniors asked her at every campaign stop how she planned to fix the issue, she tells Axios.)

  • The city set up a hotline — 404-POT-HOLE — and ordered t-shirts and equipment for the team. Morse Diggs, Fox 5’s longtime City Hall reporter, suggested the name, Franklin says.

From February to June 2002, Franklin says, the team filled more than 5,000 potholes and repaired awkward cuts in the concrete made to service utilities — another cause of the thump-a-thump when you’re driving.

  • “We declared victory and integrated the program into general [department of public works] operations,” says the former mayor, who’s known Dickens since his teenage years.

Yes, but: New administrations, budget cuts driven by economic downturns, and overhauls of departments can contribute to mission creep. The metal plates stay on the ground a little longer.

The big picture: Atlanta’s transportation needs are expected to top $3 billion over the next 20 years, Dickens said. That number grows every day if roads, sidewalks and utilities are not maintained.


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