Friday morning, I rode around with a pothole patching crew and learned how they do their jobs and what it entails.
Josh Fisher knows his job is underappreciated by some in the community.
He hears the comments about the streets. That they’re riddled with potholes. That they never improve. That they’re the worst streets in the country.
Fisher, an equipment operator with Topeka public works, has trash and Gatorade bottles thrown at him while he’s patching potholes, usually when he has to close down a lane to be safe. He gets it. Closing down lanes is inconvenient for drivers – even though the work he is doing makes it better for drivers.
He understands the sentiment. Topeka roads are rough. But to say nothing is being done, he said, is wrong.
“People say potholes are never filled, that they never see the crews out working,” Fisher said, “but I’m out here sweating every day. I am a patch crew worker. I do patch potholes.”
If people could understand the issues behind why Topeka streets aren’t in good shape, he said, maybe it would help. Here’s what he shared with me:
Most of Topeka’s streets sit on clay, which moves with the weather. In dry years, it shrinks. In wet years, it expands. He used the example of a metal bar – you bend it back and forth long enough, it’s going to crack.
Also, he said, Topeka’s infrastructure has 100 years’ worth of different materials and technology. It’s not going to take one solution to fix everything.
Despite the labor and negativity, Fisher said, this is one of the easiest jobs he’s ever had.
“It’s a good group of guys,” he said (quickly, and unprompted, stating that some women work on a different crew). “They’ve got your back, and they never complain, no matter how hot it is.”
The coolest part of the tweet-a-long was getting to see firsthand how a pothole is filled. Check it out:
I even learned some important lessons....