William Liao

November 3, 2021

Stopgap solutions

Every winter, a pothole develops on the road I take to get to the grocery store. 

Every spring, someone reports the pothole to the city, and the pothole gets fixed.

This has been going on for as long as I can remember. 

If you consider how much it costs to patch a pothole (likely cheaper) vs. repaving the section of road that the pothole sits on (likely more expensive), you could probably justify patching the hole a few times. 

As I drove along the road in question this morning, I finally found myself wondering: at what point does routinely patching the pothole become the more expensive proposition? 

Two thoughts come to mind: 

  1. It’s not a question of if, but when
  2. There are primary expenses and a laundry list of secondary expenses to consider. Primary expenses include the raw material and labor required to fix the pothole. Secondary expenses include the labor required for a good samaritan to call the city about the pothole, the labor required for a city employee to process the request through appropriate channels, and the parts and labor required to fix damaged vehicle components (control arms are not cheap!), the productivity loss resulting from workers having to take their car to the auto shop… the list goes on. 

Stopgap solutions can be an asset when they’re needed in a pinch. But at some point — especially when we routinely rely on them — they become a massive liability.