Potholes pose risk to student commuters’ cars, safety

Annie Bolin

As winter storms pass, UMKC students wince when they see a minefield of potholes covering the roads around campus.

Potholes have been a source of frustration for years in Kansas City. Once a staple of a bad Kansas City winter, some of the city’s busiest roads see potholes sticking around throughout all four seasons. 

Last summer, Waldo resident Frank Sereno celebrated the three-month birthday of a pothole in front of his house. Though it’s unclear whether that pothole lived to enjoy further anniversaries , Sereno is now taking on the hundreds more plaguing the rest of Kansas City.

Sereno started a petition in January demanding the city resurface Waldo’s arterial roads and fix what he calls “craters”: potholes that “form year-round, wreaking havoc on tax-payer vehicles.”

With the petition almost at its goal of 1,500 signatures, it seems Kansas City residents are ready for a real change.

UMKC students share this concern, as many commute to campus multiple times a week. Especially after icy conditions, large potholes can sprout like weeds on roads such as Oak Street and Swope Parkway.

“You’d think heavily traveled roads around a college campus would be free of such things, but I encounter them every day on my way to school,” said UMKC senior Serena Stoetzer.

“Trying to avoid potholes is something I’ve become very skilled at,” Stoetzer said. “I can’t afford the costs that come with realigning my car.”

Jerry Holcom, owner of S&S Service Center, says repairs to pothole damage on cars can cost anywhere from $200 to $2000.

While good for business, Holcom recognizes the shortcomings of the city in their work on the roads.

“If there’s any road with a seam anywhere, when they’re plowing the streets, those plows just pick up a big section of the concrete or asphalt, so that’s the biggest cause of the potholes,” Holcom said.

Based on the increasing volume of pothole-damaged cars brought into S&S for repairs, Holcom thinks Kansas City’s pothole problem has worsened over the past few years.

“We’re not through with this season yet, but last year I sold more wheels and tires because of pothole damage than I ever have in my entire life,” Holcom said, “and I’ve been in business 40 years.”

Mayor Quinton Lucas said during his inaugural State of the City address last week that potholes are a real concern for him and the city going forward.

Lucas introduced a budget for 2020 that includes an increase to infrastructure spending, with $17 million now available in the city’s street resurfacing fund, up 70% from two years ago.

Lucas hopes this new budget will allow for a more equitable Kansas City, one where car damage and personal injuries from potholes are of little to no concern.

“Part of building that equitable city includes ensuring that we have a city where our infrastructure doesn’t lead to blown-out car tires or damaged hubcaps, or injuries to cyclists that may costs hundreds or thousands or cause injuries that may take someone off work,” Lucas said.

Safe road conditions are one of the many “basic services” Lucas said the city promises to its residents.

This is good news for residents like Sereno, as the budget reflects funds needed to complete KC Public Works’ improvements to Wornall Road, a project started in 2018.

Still, commuting students are concerned about the conditions of their drive to campus, especially with potholes near popular campus parking, like the Cherry Street Garage.

“Hopefully funds can be used to at least repair the major roads around the campus area so students have an easier ride to school,” Stoetzer said.

To report a pothole in Kansas City, use the city’s online pothole tracker.

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