Residents concerned TDOT isn't prepared to overtake Memphis street maintenance

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Starting July 1, City of Memphis will no longer fix potholes on some of the bumpiest and busiest streets in the Bluff City.

For 20 years, the state contracted with the city to have Memphis road crews maintain nearly two dozen state routes within city limits, but city leaders said they've been losing a $1 million a year on the deal, so when the current contract ends June 30, the city is tapping out of state road maintenance.

The concern now: does the Tennessee Department of Transportation [TDOT] have the manpower and equipment needed to pick up the extra work, and given Memphis' recent pothole problems, everyone shares the concern.

Marques Warren makes deliveries for a living,and he knows Memphis streets better than most.

"Overall, they're terrible," said Warren.  "Terrible, terrible. I'm in this big truck and we bounce all over the road!"

Darius Person agrees that Memphis streets can be a challenge.

"There are most definitely a lot of potholes," said Person, "you gotta be careful.  The roads are kind of rough, especially on Poplar Avenue where it's busy all the time."

Poplar Avenue is among the major thoroughfares TDOT will be responsible for now. The list also includes Germantown Parkway, Elvis Presley Boulevard, Lamar Avenue, Summer Avenue, Stage Road, North Parkway, Crump Boulevard, Getwell Road, Shelby Drive and Walnut Grove.

Covington Pike, on the list, too, is in Rep. Antonio Parkinson's (D-Memphis) district.  The state lawmaker admits he's worried about the state's ability to do do the job.

"One of the things we're going to look at," said Rep. Parkinson, "is are those resources there?  Pothole repairs already don't happen as fast as our citizens want it to happen. I'm concerned about the state being in that position and winding up with an even slower situation."

TDOT will be responsible for fixing potholes, repaving, snow and ice treatment, grass and weed removal, debris and litter pick-up, and drain maintenance.  That's a lot of work and a lot of miles for TDOT employees to cover.

"You know Memphis is a huge city," said Darious Person. "And these potholes are dangerous.  They can mess up your car easy."

"Overtime," said Marques Warren, "mandatory overtime.  Do what it takes to fix the roads."

And when it comes to reporting potholes or submitting pothole damage claims, Parkinson said there will be a learning curve for Memphians.

"I don't know of many citizens,"  he said, "who know the difference between what's a city road and what's a state road.  They're going to continue to call 311."

A Memphis city spokesperson said if a citizen reports a complaint about a state route to the city's 311 help line, they'll receive a message indicating they need to contact the state.

The state has not yet set up a system for reporting potholes or other issues on those streets yet.  TDOT spokesperson Nichole Lawrence tells WMC Action News 5 they'll have something set up prior to July 1.

If you want to see the full list of streets impacted by this change, click here.

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