Since January 1, the city of Boston is up to 8,817 filled potholes and counting — about three times as many as in previous years.
I’ve received a torrent of e-mails from readers complaining about pothole proliferation, and the damage they are causing to cars.
Grady Moates of Randolph sent a copy of a recent bill from work performed on his Ford Escape, with the subject line “Hubcap loss is nothing”: The jolt from a pothole had broken one of the metal “tone rings” that are installed on the axle-shafts that communicate with the car’s anti-lock braking system. It’s a serious problem because it causes the braking system to exert itself at the wrong time, and requires immediate repair.
The real damage, he wrote, came out to the tune of $352.82. Ouch.
But you’ve got to figure somebody somewhere is benefitting from the scourge, right?
Barry Steinberg, owner of Direct Tire and Auto Service, based out of Watertown, e-mailed a photo straight out of a vehicular horror movie: Tires, 27 of them, stacked up in Steinberg’s tire shop after having been ripped up by potholes.
“Pothole victims from today,” he wrote.
“I have been in the tire and wheels business for 39 years and have never seen so many damaged tires and wheels as we have seen this year,” Steinberg wrote. “On Saturday alone we had 7 cars brought in on flat beds, each with 2 flat tires and bent wheels.”
It turns out, Steinberg is not just suffering from the usual affectations of this-is-the-worst-winter-ever that strike every season. He has data to back it up: Between Dec. 1, 2012, and early March 2013 his tire shops in Watertown, Norwood, Peabody, and Natick performed 62 wheel repairs and straightening, and replaced 31 wheels because of damage that could not be repaired.
This year? 213 wheel repairs and straightening, 88 wheel replacements — more than double.
And tire sales are up 26 percent.
For the tire industry, it would seem business is a-boomin’. But Steinberg insisted he was about as frustrated by the prevalence of potholes as anyone.
“Is this good for business? Sure,” Steinberg said. “But this unexpected expense and inconvenience is not what our clients want or need. I would rather sell them tires when they wear out normally.”Martine Powers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @martinepowers.