As the end of April draws near, the city finally unthaws and spring truly arrives. Yet for students who drive, the melting snow merely reveals the heavy toll that Wisconsin’s harsh winters take on the city’s streets.
Over the winter, snow and rain accumulate in a street’s existing cracks. When this precipitation freezes it expands; when the temperature rises, the water melts and washes away, leaving a weakened road. As traffic continues on these roads, the weakened area eventually collapses, creating many potholes throughout the city.
These potholes are not a problem unique to Wisconsin; they can occur anywhere this freeze-thaw cycle exists. An estimated 350 million potholes mar the country’s roads, making driving both unsafe and uncomfortable.
Last month, drivers in Louisville, KY got some welcome relief to this problem, when the Louisville-based company Kentucky Friend Chicken paid to fill the city’s numerous potholes. The repair project was part of an effort to generate publicity for the company’s “Fresh Tastes Best” campaign. The “Fresh Tastes Best” campaign is meant to highlight the company’s dedication to providing fresh, high-quality products to their customers.
To emphasize their absolute dedication to freshness, the Colonel and his crew paid to re-“fresh” Louisville’s roadways by repairing it’s pothole-ridden streets. All that the Colonel asked in return was for the city’s re-“fresh”ed potholes to be branded in non-permanent street chalk with an advertisement declaring them “Refreshed by KFC.” While the white chalk logo against the new black asphalt was certainly striking, the company assured the city that it was not permanent and would wash away with the rain.
Louisville’s Mayor Jerry Abramson seemed to have no problem with the compromise. He stated, “Budgets are tight for cities across the country, and finding funding for needed road repairs is a continuing challenge.” As he accepted KFC’s offer, he praised the company’s dedication to the city.
While few Marquette students are affected by Louisville’s repaved roadways, the company’s most recent offer concerns every Milwaukee resident. On March 25, Roger Eaton, president of KFC, issued an open offer to mayors around the nation, asking them to nominate their city for the company’s program. The company will choose four major American cities and pay for each city’s potholes to be repaved.
“What? That’s awesome,” Andy Merkel, a Junior at Marquette, said upon hearing about this offer. Merkel, as a native of Southeastern Wisconsin knows how bad the roads have become. “Milwaukee definitely needs to look into that.”
There are numerous reasons why Milwaukee is the perfect candidate for KFC’s “Fresh Tastes Best” campaign. The city is responsible for the maintenance, repair and resurfacing of approximately 900 miles of Milwaukee’s streets. These repairs are funded mainly through the city’s Resurfacing Reconstruction program.
A 2006 report from the Milwaukee Department of Public Works (the most recent data available) shows the substantial time and money that the city spends repairing and maintaining the streets. In that year alone, the city paid to have over 400,000 square yards of cracked pavement filled in. An additional 9,800 tons of asphalt was required by street maintenance crews to repair small asphalt cracks and potholes.
Milwaukee’s potholes are not just an annoyance for drivers. Repairing the damaged roads puts a big strain on the city’s budget, and takes away potential funding for other important initiatives.
The winter’s effect on the roads will take a bigger toll on the city’s budget this year than ever before. According to city’s 2009 budget, beginning this year there will be no federal or state-level contributions towards the Resurfacing Reconstruction program. Instead, the program’s $10.3 million dollar budget will be funded exclusively by the city of Milwaukee.
The streets of Milwaukee are clearly riddled with potholes, and thus with potential advertising for KFC. But allowing KFC to temporarily advertise along the streets in order to free up over ten million dollars in funds seems like a minor compromise.
Asked if he would mind having the KFC logo on the roads, Merkel responded: “not at all, in fact, I would go to KFC more often if they fixed the roads.”
Perhaps of even more concern to Marquette students with cars on campus, are some of the strategies that the city has used in an attempt to balance its budget. Wisconsin state law requires that the city present a balanced budget, so the city was forced to find ways to fund their additional $3.8 million contribution to the Resurfacing Reconstruction Program. One of the ways they did so was by factoring in a $1.4 million increase in their revenues from Parking Operations, which draws it’s revenue from things like meters, towing, sale of permits and parking citations.
Allowing KFC to help Milwaukee out and fill the city’s potholes would help ease the burden of funding the Resurfacing and Reconstruction Program solely on city funds. It would take away some of the need for expected increases in parking citation revenue.
For those students who perhaps do not commute or keep a car on campus, there are still incredibly compelling reasons to support a KFC “Fresh Tastes Best” initiative in Milwaukee. The millions of dollars spent by the city on repairing and repaving the streets could be spent on a number of meaningful city projects.
So, what can you do to make sure that Milwaukee is nominated for KFC “Fresh Tastes Best” initiative? According to the letter issued by the company, the request must come from the city’s mayor. Milwaukee residents can contact Mayor Tom Barrett at (414) 286-2200, or by email at [email protected] to voice their support for allowing the Colonel and his crew to repair the city’s potholes. In the meantime, report Milwaukee potholes by calling (414) 286-2489 or filling out an online form at http://www.mpw.net/Pages/Infrastructure/potholeMaintenance.html