Sunday, September 16, 2007

Worst Pothole in South Africa

And…it’s getting bigger

The thing about potholes is they sneak up on you. You’ll be driving as you do on the same well worn route and then one day: BANG! And it’s not as if you can just shrug it all off either. Your steering wheel is wobbling, which means tyres are going to start wearing a lot faster too. Is it just me or are potholes coming up all over the country?

Earlier this year I was crazy enough to drive my very low profile car over South Africa’s highest mountain pass, Naudesnek. It’s not a route for squeamish, and I often had to drive with one wheel on the middlemannetjie and the other on the roads shoulder to avoid scraping the undercarriage out from under us. Imagine my surprise then that once back home in the city, it was a pothole that eventually damaged my wheelalignment – despite all that risky offroading!

Now, at the intersection of Jauncey and 8th Street, near the Johannesburg suburb of Houghton, a mega pothole has begun to sink across the road. What makes this crater dangerous, is that it is long and narrow, and its situated on a road beside a school. This means that cars coming from either direction have to dive towards the shallower end of the grave, or risk carnage.

It’s a sticky situation. The tar has been collapsing along a narrow band which was probably dug for a pipeline. The pipeline has sprung a leak higher up in the road, and the downward flow then softens the substructure under the tar, causing it to gradually collapse.

As recently as last week I saw a giant yellow machine doing something in the road (I’m not sure what). When I returned from work they’d dumped a lot of red soil over the growing grave. It has proved to be much of a solution. The depression is spreading in a downwards direction, caving in further and further each day. And one shower of rain is likely to wash away the softening cushion of sand.

If there’s one thing that causes potholes it’s the combination of water, which turns the tar into a dry tissue, and then a constant stream of traffic that begins to break the surface into small pieces.

While I was taking photos, all the vehicles that passed seemed to underestimate how deep it was, and each time you heard a BANG of shock absorbers not quite able to absorb the shock. At least the soil provides some sort of warning that some hazard is in the road. At night, the first time I went over it, the Earth opened in the road and I also drove right over it.

Is this South Africa’s worst pothole? Send us your pictures and let’s see.

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