To Fix A Few Potholes, 'Guerrilla' Group Takes Matters Into Its Own Hands
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Too many drivers know this sound...
(SOUNDBITE OF SUSPENSION BUCKLING)
BLOCK: ...The sound of hitting a pothole. In this case, many potholes. This is what it's like to drive through of hitting a pothole this case many potholes. This is what it's like to drive through Hamtramck, Mich., a 2-square-mile city surrounded by Detroit. As Sarah Hulett of Michigan Radio reports, they're all too familiar with potholes of the rim-bending, tire-blowing kind.
SARAH HULETT, BYLINE: Jon Sucher is kind of a barometer for road conditions in Hamtramck.
JON SUCHER: Oh, yeah. You know what? A lot of times if you hear about a bad pothole on the news, I'll know about it before the news does because if it's around here, people come to me.
HULETT: Sucher owns Sucher Tire. He's got a bunch of cracked and bent rims stacked by the front door of his shop. Some of them are from repeat customers.
SUCHER: So you see, a big piece of that rim is missing right there.
HULETT: To be clear, the roads aren't really great anywhere in Michigan, but in Hamtramck, hardly anybody has a garage. That means everybody parks on the street, and that makes the potholes really hard to dodge. Politicians at the State Capitol have been squabbling for years over how to raise the billion-plus dollars needed to fix the state's roads, so a group of Hamtramck residents decided to take matters into their own hands.
MARITZA GARIBAY: OK, who has a truck?
HULETT: They call themselves the Hamtramck Guerrilla Road Crew. They're fed up with the potholes, and so over beers a couple of weeks ago...
JONATHAN WEIER: So we were just kind of hanging out.
HULETT: This is Jonathan Weier.
WEIER: The conversation steered in the way of potholes, and we just sort of posed the questions of, what would we do? What do you fill it with? How much does it cost? How difficult is it to accomplish well?
HULETT: The next day, Weier says he took the extra money he had in his paycheck and bought 17 bags of asphalt. He and his friends borrowed some tools and filled a stretch of what look like craters near where they live. Tabitha Hojna and Jeff Salazar say they were already paying to fix their cars, so why not instead put some of that money into fixing the roads?
TABITHA HOJNA: I guarantee if you've lived here long enough, you've had a flat tire or a bent rim or...
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Ball joints.
JEFF SALAZAR: Ball joints, suspension components - I mean, the tire guys love it around town, you know what I mean? They're making a killing off of it.
HULETT: Salazar says patching the potholes turned out to be pretty simple work. So they launched a fundraising campaign, and money started pouring in. They raised more than $4,000, enough to buy three-and-a-half tons of asphalt. On Saturday, they gave a quick demonstration to the three-dozen people who showed up to pitch in.
GARIBAY: Step one, sweep the hole.
HULETT: Step two, pour in the asphalt. Step three, tamp it down.
GARIBAY: This is where you get to take out all your aggression.
HULETT: And of course, don't hold up traffic.
SALAZAR: If you've ever played street hockey, just yell out car, and everybody gets out of the way.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Game on.
GARIBAY: We got a van coming.
SALAZAR: Game on. Oh, there you go - car.
HULETT: These neighbors aren't the first to take a do-it-yourself to Michigan's notorious pothole problem. Last year, the city of Ann Arbor asked a resident who took it upon himself to fill the potholes on his street to please not do that. But Hamtramck officials are so far OK with the help. They even gave the group a list of streets the city planned to patch soon so they wouldn't double up. So far, the Guerrilla Road Crew has tackled more than 20 city blocks. They say they'll be back out there this Saturday. For NPR News, I'm Sarah Hulett.
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