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Why are there so many damn potholes on DeKalb Avenue?

A pothole on DeKalb Avenue
Photograph by Martha Williams

In Cambodia, there’s a road near the ruins of Angkor Wat that for years was considered one of the world’s most comically potholed; cars were routinely outfitted with jerry-rigged, shock-absorbent suspension systems. The difference between that road and DeKalb Avenue? Cambodia officials actually repaired it. Why does DeKalb continue to make life miserable for commuters and bicyclists? Obvious culprits include the 19,000 cars and tractor trailers that use the road daily rather than the adjacent MARTA line, poor drainage that degrades asphalt, the fact that the thoroughfare connecting Atlanta to Decatur dates back to at least the 1870s, the seemingly endless water line repair work necessary beneath it, and the confusion that stems from multiple city departments being responsible for filling potholes. But there is a sliver of hope. Nearly 20 years after then-mayor Shirley Franklin formed her “pothole posse,” Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has made fixing potholes a priority—her administration claims it’s filled more than 9,000 since October 2018. And next year, thanks to the $250 million infrastructure bond voters approved in 2015, the road will be resurfaced. But we’ll be saying goodbye to the reversible lanes to make room for bikers. That’ll slow things down!

This article appears in our November 2019 issue.