In an interview covering the challenges involved in gaining approval for transportation funding, outgoing US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood suggested to NPR's Diane Rehm that Americans would be okay with increased funding for repairs because they already know that "America is one big pothole right now."
Needless to say, the headlines and tweets basically wrote themselves that day. Google finds nearly 14,000 quotes.
LaHood's choice of words, intentional or not, resonated in some sectors of the transportation infrastructure community. Could asphalt's known propensity to develop potholes
, coupled with a 94% market share
be ensuring Americans have no choice but to drive on pitted roads?
With so many roads subject to potholes, we looked for a way to see if America's drivers felt the same way that Secretary LaHood seemed to. Did the people who use America's roads see potholes everywhere, or where they not an issue at all?
We decided to go where data was readily available and checked Twitter archives, finding over 220,000 pothole-related tweets by 197,000 people. This seemed to confirm that people sensed a problem. But it wasn't until we plotted the data to the points of origin across the country graphically
that we saw the true nature of the problem. Here's what we saw:
LaHood was right.
The potholes weren't isolated to specific locations. If there were people and pavement then there was pothole chatter. A lot
America has indeed become "one big pothole."
Want to see for yourself? Check our interactive tweet map
containing just the raw pothole tweets from the last few days. And this is limited only to geotagged tweets and those who list their cities in their profiles. The actual number is often more than triple
the counts shown.
America doesn't have to be one big pothole.
We hope you'll stick with us as we work to change things. We're expecting a busy season as we compile and share insights, tools, research, and resources in an effort to take back the months from March through May from Pothole Season so we can all start calling them "Spring" again.