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Wednesday, August 18, 2021

A big hole in a big road ate one of my tires

A while back, I bought and installed a dash camera on my car. I figured after initially seeing tons of crazy Russian insurance scams thwarted by it, and then a bunch of crazy videos from the rest of the world, it was my turn. Then, over the weekend, it finally paid off by capturing video of something awful that happened to me.

I was partway through a long road trip back home, and was cruising along in this "safety corridor" on I-40 in Arizona. This place is littered with signs saying how they have zero tolerance for speeding and safety violations and all of that stuff. I noticed that it curiously began where US 93 joined up with 40 (from Phoenix), and then ended right where 93 split off to head for Las Vegas.

My assumption is that the Phoenix-Vegas traffic makes things really crappy, hence the added enforcement and whatnot. I figured, okay, I'll set the cruise control exactly at the 75 mph limit and just leave it there until I'm well past this area. At least it's going to be well-maintained, well-lit, and all of that, right? Safety corridor? Surely that means they also maintain it better, since they enforce much more strenuously?

Yeah, well, not so much. While crossing over top of historic route 66, I saw the usual terrible patch jobs they do in their pavement, but never expected the monster hole in the road that ended up eating my tire.

It was just a single sound: BAMMMMMMMMMM.

My tire pressure monitoring stuff lit up and I knew something was very wrong. It took a good half-mile or so to slow down and pull completely out of traffic, and that's when it was obvious: the tire was dead. I called it in to 911, thinking maybe they'd close the lane or something, but they just forwarded me to the state maintenance people. Great. I registered my complaint and got to work putting on the spare. (I'll skip over the part where I had to find a tire shop that was open and willing to deal with a car instead of a massive commercial truck.)

A couple of days later, I extracted the video and then grabbed some stills from it, and this is the result. It's now obvious what happened: the concrete on the bridge has fallen apart to where the rebar is visible, and there are some nasty-looking edges along the right side of the hole. Based on what happened to my tire, I suspect the edge sliced right through it, and the BOOM was just from dropping into a deep hole and then immediately impacting the far end.

Massive hole in I-40

The worst part is that when you look at the video even one second before impact, you can't tell it's this bad. It just looks like the usual crap-fest which is the road surface in Arizona. There's no possible way to know what you're in for until it's too late.

I should note that this was not a case of me just sucking at driving and evasion of nasty things in general. Several other cars were also pulled off just past there, and they were also either putting on spares or waiting for a truck to help them get out of there. A state trooper pulled up to check on some of them at one point, but I never saw if they bothered to close the lane. Nothing showed up on Apple Maps, at least.

One of the frustrating things about this was my complete inability to do anything to prevent this kind of damage for other people. I couldn't "open a SEV" or close the lane myself or anything else you could think of. I mean, at one point, I jokingly thought "hey, let's buy a case of that expanding foam crap from the Walmart, get the state trooper to do a rolling roadblock, and just fill it full of that foam until ADOT can do something more permanent about it". Obviously, that's not really possible, snarky and fun though it may sound.

That kind of thinking served me well once upon a time when it was used for my kind of "infra": dumb computer systems and network problems. Unfortunately, it was completely useless here.

I just had to hope that nobody else got too badly screwed up on this thing, and that the state agencies in question took it seriously and got on it right away.