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Montreal roads going to pot

By Archives March 11, 2008

I cringe every time my little empty gas pump light comes on these days. I’m not usually in a good mood at the pump, where gas prices have remained steady at well over $1.10 a litre over the last few weeks. There’s only one other thing that revs my motor more when it comes to driving in this city, those big gaping holes that are far less few and not so far between this winter.
I remember avoiding part of Queen Mary past winters because word was out that there was a black hole that devoured all cars that dared cross its path. And sections of Marcel Laurin should be avoided at all costs if you wanted to come home with all the car pieces you left with in the morning. The challenge this winter, it seems, is to find a street without potholes.
I feel like my reflexes will be tested every time I venture out, wondering what kind of obstacle course I’ll be dealing with. Will I need to use a left-to-right dodging swerve tactic? Or will I be driving in the middle of two lanes trying to avoid the bubbling crack that seems to run down miles of the same road? I’m starting to feel like one of those drivers in car commercials with the disclaimer that reads “Professional driver on a closed course – do not attempt.”
My passengers have even commented that my constant swaying is making them suffer from motion sickness. There is a method to my manic manoeuvring though – so far this winter I have sustained two flat tires and lost two hubcaps as a result of hitting a couple of those craters that have become a part of this city.
This has forced me to spend more time with my mechanic than I care to. I adore my mechanic, but the visit is always bittersweet, since it usually involves me forking over a wad of cash at the end of our time together: my new hubcaps, wheels, plus labour cost me $300.
Yes, we’ve had a lot more snow than usual, and temperatures have been schizophrenic to say the least, but other cities are exposed to the same conditions and don’t share in the same reputation that Montreal has for its road conditions. My cousins visiting from Greece even commented on the bumpy car rides.
So what’s the problem? Salt for one. The city’s website says 140,000 tonnes of salt is spread on our streets every winter. It also states, “In addition to acting as corrosives and melting agents, they promote road degradation.” Umm . . . well . . . how about cutting back on the salt then? According to Environment Canada, road salt is also toxic to the environment, which should be reason enough to try to minimize its use on slippery roads.
Toronto uses approximately the same amount of salt we do, which means the impact on their roads is less, given the city’s size.
Perhaps we need to follow Ohio’s lead and look into using more effective and environmentally friendly alternatives. Geomelt, which is essentially beet juice, has so far garnered positive results for the city; it apparently sticks to the road better than traditional treatments and when used with salt, it lessens the amount of calcium chloride, which corrodes cars, concrete and steel.
Potholes also increase fuel consumption by as much as 35 per cent, due to constant braking, which causes even more detriment to the environment. It also means I’ll be in a bad mood at the pumps more often.