The Collegian
Thursday, February 22, 2024

Snow-induced trench warfare: University of Richmond style

Ordinarily, I am supposed to focus on national, large-scale issues in my articles for The Collegian. But this week, my attention was forced to isolate its focus squarely on the University of Richmond. And given the problems posed by what I shall dub the "Great Pothole Disaster of 2010," I would not be surprised if the State Department is called in soon to address the situation anyway.

This unfortunate problem basically sprung up out of nowhere. It snowed. In Virginia. Then it snowed again. And after a few more sporadic snow showers hit the earth, the Virginia Department of Transportation decided that it had better try its hand at snow plowing. Sadly, the results were devastating.

Our streets now appear as if they are the inspiration for Mad Max Road Warrior, forcing people to adopt trench-warfare tactics just to get to Subway. It became so bad for a while that Richmond roads were beginning to resemble Sundays at the British Open — the bunkers innumerable and practically unavoidable. These realities leave you with the unpleasant decision of deciding whether you are going to play it safe and drive 2 mph (so everyone can see you) like a typical Richmonder or put the bunkers in play and let it rip. It's a risk/reward issue for sure.

Luckily, some of the potholes have been filled in during the last few days. Unluckily, this has made driving even more precarious in some ways. Instead of knowing that you face a metaphorical minefield when driving, you must be prepared for a few sporadic potholes that sneak up on you. They ruthlessly pillage your car — and could probably lead to a head injury if you hit them just right.

A quick browse on the VDOT Web site will reveal that the state has 3,146 people dedicated exclusively to snow-removal responsibilities. They also lay claim to having more than 6,000 different pieces of snow-removal equipment, 239,000 tons of salt and 62,000 tons of sand. In a Mastercard-commercial-like moment, you keep expecting the punch line to appear after all these gaudy numbers saying: The ability to ACTUALLY understand how to use such snow-removal technology? Priceless.

The fact of the matter is that when the snow finally melted away, it revealed gaping, cavernous holes in the local roads. Being from Michigan — a land well-versed in snowstorms — I wince when seeing such ineptness at a basic task such as snow plowing. Having grown up on a farm, I have spent many hours observing and partaking in snow-removal processes. On cement in particular, it's pretty basic stuff (try snowplowing on gravel roads for a real challenge).

Sure, it requires some talent, but taking out monster-size chunks of asphault seems a little excessive. Either way, many other states have consistently larger snow-removal challenges than Virginia and survive without crater, vehicle-eating traps of death.

So, in the future, if we can't count on global warming to keep Virginia snowfall at bay, then this state and our school will need to level up on their snow-removal capabilities.

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