Rosco The Magic Pothole Fixer

It seems potholes have plagued isle roads from the beginning of time. So it was no big surprise that there is a nonprofit group TRIP – The Road Information Program – that operates out of Washington, D.C. And like so many other national studies, based on state Department of Transportation data, it ranks the additional wear-and-tear cost on Honolulu vehicles as fourth-highest in the nation for cities with populations of 500,000 or more.

Roads in San Jose, Calif., cause the most vehicle wear, followed by Los Angeles and San Francisco. The record shows that during the week of March 4 through 10, the city of Honolulu received 243 request to fix potholes – 78 to its website and 165 to the pothole hot-line (786-7777, tm). According to the TRIP study, 47 percent of Hawaii’s major roadways are “poor” and 14 percent are “mediocre.”

None of this is very surprising to residents of Honolulu. Year after year, those who collect our tax dollars have promised to take on the pothole problem with great determination, but not much has happened.

When I read the TRIP study, it reminded me of a time back in 2001 to ’03 when the state announced that it had found a possible solution to repairing potholes. It seemed like a new era was about to be born. After much fanfare, the state introduced its miracle solution: a $156,000 pothole patcher. It looked a little strange in shape, like a portable concrete mixer with small tires. Taxpayers thought it was a little expensive, but there was still joy in Honolulu. Alas, it was short-lived.

Transportation officials tested the Rosco RA-300 and found that the pothole patcher’s work wouldn’t last a year. The problem seemed to be the quality of the patch was not up to par and wouldn’t be worth the cost of operating it. A sadness hung over the city for months. Finally they decided to sell it and recoup some of the loss, but no one would buy it – in fact, they couldn’t give it away. I asked City Councilwoman Ann Kobayashi if she remembered the pothole patcher episode. She recalled, “The state tried to give it to us and we wouldn’t take it.”

The potholes are still here and the Rosco RA-300 has vanished from the scene. It has not been used or seen for years. It only appears on the Department of Accounting and General Services records as “Surplus.”

Further searching found that Rosco RA-300 is in prison on the Big Island. It’s not working, no hard labor, just serving a life sentence for not performing up to par, destined to rust away in shame.