By DAVID SKOLNICK
It cost Derrick Braden about $400 to fix two broken ball joints and a disconnected shock absorber on his truck that he said came courtesy of driving on Fifth Avenue and other nearby streets, all covered with potholes.
“Many of my friends have had to fix issues with their vehicles as well, such as bent rims, loose exhausts, warped rotors,” said Braden, who lives on Fairgreen Avenue, off of Fifth Avenue, and operates Greyland Gallery downtown. “I’ve seen people driving as slow as five miles an hour around town trying their best to preserve their vehicles. As annoying as it may be to drive behind, I can’t say that I blame them.”
Lori Kolench of Liberty, who often comes to Youngstown, said she “tries to avoid [Fifth Avenue] as much as possible. It’s the bumpiest ride down to downtown. My daughter jokes and wants to know why I drive all crazy going down that street.”
The street on the city’s North Side will be resurfaced and improved from U.S. Route 422 to Gypsy Lane this summer. City officials were so concerned about the poor quality of the street that it convinced the state, which is paying for most of the $1.4 million project, to have it done this year when it had been slated for 2015.
“Fifth, it is a horror,” said Sean T. McKinney, the city’s buildings and grounds commissioner who oversees the street department. “We are going to repave it. We’ve tried to patch it, but it didn’t work as the weather has posed a challenge. We still want to make sure people on that street are safe, and will patch it again.”
While Fifth Avenue has a lot of potholes, it certainly isn’t the only main street in the city with that problem.
The Vindicator recently asked readers on its website, Facebook page and Twitter account to submit the names of streets in the city with pothole problems.
Besides Fifth Avenue, several others appeared a number of times including sections of North Meridian Road, McCartney Road, Mahoning Avenue, McGuffey Road and Wilson Avenue.
After seeing the responses on Vindy.com about two weeks ago, Mayor John A. McNally had street crews patch some of those named including North Meridian and McCartney roads.
But driving on them in recent days, as a Vindicator reporter did, you wouldn’t know some roads were touched.
North Meridian Road, shortly after turning off of Mahoning Avenue, is littered with potholes almost all the way to the county line on the West Side. Among the worst parts is near the Interstate 680 interchange which has vehicles almost come to a stop in order not hit a big pothole while getting on the highway.
Katie Salupo wrote on the newspaper’s Facebook wall that she “cracked the rim in half and blew out my tire on Meridian Road. Repairman said he’s never seen anything like it. Dangerous!!”
The city has tried to fill potholes with limited success.
“The frustrating thing about it is our staff has spent significant time and resources tackling the main roadways and Mahoning [Avenue] is not good, Fifth is bad and so are other streets,” McNally said. “It’s a concern. The rain hampered us [last week]. You’ve got to keep going back to it, and our continued focus is on potholes. We patched those roads and thought it was resolved. The patching gets chewed up and leaves the holes behind.”
The harsh winter — it was one of the consistently coldest on record with significant snowfall — followed by a poor spring — with below average temperatures and numerous rainy days — have made it difficult to fix the roads, McKinney said.
“It’s been a challenge,” McKinney said. “We’re going to continue to move forward and do as many roads as we can.”
Braden questioned whether the city’s street department is “capable” of paving the roads.
“I have seen them working and its the kind of a pathetic and embarrassing site you might see when the county inmates clean up I-680,” he said. “There is no work ethic, lots of standing around, and the worst part is that they are doing a horrible job. None of the patchwork is finished. Also, many roads I travel are partially fixed. It’s frustrating realizing that there is no organization or emphasis from the city to [resolve] this infrastructure problem that we have here.”
Mahoning Avenue from Oak Hill Avenue to Edwards Street, just a short distance from downtown, is filled with potholes.
There are a number of large holes in the street in front of Star Supply Bargain Outlet, a closeout store on the corner of Mahoning and Edwards.
“They’re terrible and we have a lot of customers complain about it,” said Karla Hodge, who works at the store. “The holes are so bad that people will swerve to avoid them. You hear a lot of tires screeching and horns blowing, and our sidewalks are destroyed. It’s a corridor to downtown Youngstown and there’s a ramp off [I-680], and the road is terrible. There’s no excuse for it this late in the year.”
Steel Street between Wellington and Butler avenues on the West Side is in poor shape even though the city’s street department patched it about three weeks ago.
“The patches didn’t last,” said Joe Roscoe, who owns Roscoe’s Poultry Market on the street. “There are holes so big you could lay in them. I’ve been here 25, 30 years and this is the worst I’ve seen for potholes. I don’t know whether it’s the weather or something else, but the potholes are pretty bad. We’d like the city to come and take care of the street.”
Jeff Roskie of Campbell usually takes Wilson Avenue on the East Side into Youngstown, but said he avoids it because of the potholes.
“The patched patches have now given way to ravines and trenches,” he said.
Roskie added: “Driving on Wilson Avenue is putting the life of your car in danger.”
With the weather expected to improve, the city is focusing on patching streets this month, McNally said.
Also, the city should finalize a deal later this week, McKinney said, with Mahoning County Job and Family Services to have about 10 to 12 people, who receive government financial assistance or food stamps, focus on patching potholes. Those chosen for the program must first pass criminal background checks and drug tests, McKinney said. They earn minimum-wage credit equal to what they receive in government assistance.