A hole in this freshly paved road at 11th Street and Crawford Avenue took some residents by surprise.

Photo by Matt Stensland

A hole in this freshly paved road at 11th Street and Crawford Avenue took some residents by surprise.

Rob Douglas: Small hole causes larger concern


Rob Douglas

Rob Douglas' column appears Fridays in the Steamboat Today. He can be reached at rdouglas@SteamboatToday.com.

Find more columns by Douglas here.

When financial times get tight, citizens rightly expect their government to carefully manage every penny. Sometimes, even a hole in a freshly paved road raises questions.

That was the case this week concerning a hole in the middle of a street in Steamboat Springs. If you take a ride to the corner of 11th Street and Crawford Avenue, you'll be struck by two observations that raised questions for residents of that neighborhood.

As you approach the intersection, you'll notice that Crawford and 11th recently have been repaved. But, as you reach the intersection, you'll also realize the brand new blacktop has a brand new hole in the middle of Crawford Avenue.

The new pavement is courtesy of the city of Steamboat Springs.

The new hole is courtesy of Atmos Energy.

Granted, the hole in the refurbished street is small. But, given the pristine condition of the new pavement, you can't help but notice the damage to the street.

How new is the hole in relation to the resurfaced road?

Residents of the neighborhood report that within days of the repaving, a crew from Atmos was applying markings to the road and shortly thereafter began digging a hole to access the gas line under the street.

Admittedly, one new hole dug on one newly repaved street seems like an inconsequential matter. After all, the hole is only several square feet and will be patched at fairly little expense.

But, as commonsense dictates the patched hole will cause the newly resurfaced road to break down prematurely - particularly as city snowplows repeatedly scrape the patch - concerned citizens were right to ask why the city and Atmos didn't coordinate the work on Crawford Avenue. Fortunately, Public Works Director Philo Shelton provided a seemingly good answer yesterday to the neighborhood's concerns.

According to Shelton, the hole is the result of an unforeseeable event that required Atmos to work on a gas line from a residence in the neighborhood to the main line under the street after the paving of the street already was completed as scheduled. Unfortunately, no sooner had the city repaved Crawford Avenue than Atmos had to access the gas line under the street to conduct the unexpected work.

Now, there are some - especially within government - who believe that citizens who raise questions about one line item in a budget or one small hole on one street are being picayune. But, for those who feel that way, there is a one-word response that is exceedingly apropos given recent road work in downtown Steamboat.


Thermoplastic crosswalk markings applied by the Colorado Department of Transportation last fall along Lincoln Avenue in downtown Steamboat. The markings - costing five to 10 times as much as traditional painted crosswalks - were applied in spite of commonsense warnings from citizens and experts alike that the thermoplastic would not withstand scraping by snowplows. Further, it was a waste of tax dollars to use the more expensive thermoplastic, instead of paint, given that Lincoln Avenue already was scheduled to be completely renovated this summer - meaning the thermoplastic would be removed anyway.

As it turns out, the commonsense predictions of citizens proved far more accurate than those of CDOT and Steamboat's Public Works Department as the thermoplastic didn't even survive last winter - much less the predicted three to four years.

After the first snowfall, the thermoplastic already was chipping. By January, many crosswalks were shredded. By March, contrary to an initial denial by Shelton, city workers were scraping the remaining markings off the street as chunks of plastic were littering streets, gutters, sewers and sidewalks alike.

So, while concerns from citizens that the hole on Crawford Avenue was an example of wasteful double-work on the part of the city and Atmos appear to be a false alarm, let's hope our citizens remain vigilant and keep questioning whether their government is operating with commonsense.

Let's further hope that our government officials at all levels - local, state and federal - actually listen to citizens when they raise questions and concerns about the work of government during these challenging times instead of dismissing those concerns and wasting dwindling resources.

To reach Rob Douglas, e-mail Rob.Douglas@Comcast.net


Paul Hughes 7 years, 11 months ago

Amen, papafu. Rob, you have way too much free time. Spend a day with the Streets department and then let's see you nitpick.


Tubes 7 years, 11 months ago

yeah, it may sound as if he is nitpicking--but govt waste is a legitimate topic in today's financial climate. especially, in an era of furloughs, potential layoffs, and some very substantial cutbacks by our local agencies...there seems to be some not so logical spending occuring. the road patch thing above--in my opinion--is legimate as it was unforseen.

the city is bidding some cart path replacement work at the haymaker. is this really the year to do this? we're talking some very minor superficial cracking that any golf cart, maintenance vehicle, or pedestrian player can negotiate with absolutely no problem--not to mention that most of it is over by the maintenance facility that no one will see but the crews. yet they're gonna drop 20-30 grand on replacing it...seems like an irresponsible use of resources to me, for this year anyway...

the whistler road striping issue that came up the other day...restripe the road when in two weeks they're gonna mill the asphalt and repave...huh?

the curb replacement at 10th and lincoln, how long has it been like this? and yet this is the year to drop some coin on it...

the newly installed sidewalk at 13th across from the library. it's been fine for how many years....not so sure it is needed anyway, there is a sidewalk across the street with crosswalks at both ends to safely get pedestrians across the street to it. again not the time for this either...

how much was that hybrid bus?

and these are just a few examples that come immediately to mind.


Martha D Young 7 years, 11 months ago

Rob's points were the unresponsiveness of the Public Works Director, and the wasteful practices of the PWD in this time of a shrinking city budget. The PW staff out on the streets work hard and long hours - no compliant there. The problem is that the PWD doesn't listen to the public, similarly to his predecessor. The absurd tear-drop striping that is supposed to push cars making left turns from Anglers Drive into Sundance Plaza toward the McDonald's entrance, thus blocking through traffic was created by Philo's predecessor. Then there's the striping along Pine Grove Road that prohibits a left turn onto Rollingstone Drive. Who's in charge here?


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