Editorial: ‘A-Tag’ — A smooth idea for roads

Posted 2/13/20

There are few things quite as sweet as that first drive down a once battle-scarred, teeth-rattling town road that has been blessed with a fresh coat of smooth asphalt.

And there are few things as …

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Editorial: ‘A-Tag’ — A smooth idea for roads

Posted

There are few things quite as sweet as that first drive down a once battle-scarred, teeth-rattling town road that has been blessed with a fresh coat of smooth asphalt.

And there are few things as disappointing as driving down that same road months later after the utilities and private contractors have gotten their hands on it.

It shouldn’t be, but smooth asphalt is a fleeting pleasure in most towns. 

Rules are supposed to prevent it, but fresh pavement is a magnet for excavators. No sooner is it rolled and ready than the sewer or water or stormwater or cable or electrical or some other department or company finds urgent and unforeseen need to dig it all up again.

Town regulations require that the patches they leave behind be flawless and long-lasting but they are seldom so. Seemingly in no time, patches sag, crack and crumble apart. 

And it falls to town (and taxpayer) to patch the patches.

Now Boston, which hands out 5,000 permits a year for road cuts, has come up with (actually copied New York City) a solution that may actually work.

While every patch is supposed to be guaranteed for three years, the problem, says Boston’s supervisor of utilities, was tracking down the culprit.

They gave me this,” he told WGBH. He crossed his arms and pointed in opposite directions. "They gave me a 'that-a-way. It wasn't me.’ So I said, you know what? I’m tired of that."

The answer — Asphalt-tags (A-tags for short).

Looking like poker chips, the round, color-coded, durable plastic tags are embedded in the pavement and provide clear and lasting evidence of whodunnit. Sewer is blue, cable is orange and so on — and each carries ID numbers and names.

It saves the city and its residents lots of money, of course, by helping assure that those who did the damage do the repairs. But the real beauty of it all is that the “tag allows everybody to, basically, be an inspector. From the mayor to Mrs. Jones or Mrs. Smith.”

It’s worth considering here to, say, keep Westport’s freshly paved and magnificent John Reed Road from turning into something like Tiverton’s Highland or Crandall roads overnight.

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.