By Srijan Sen
With spring around the corner and snow almost gone, disturbing sights of broken roads and deep potholes are surfacing all over the city.
The city of Milwaukee along with Department of Public Works have come up with a solution involving input from residents through a mobile app.
MKE Mobile is a free cellphone app that allows residents to locate, photograph and provide information on issues such as potholes, graffiti and abandoned vehicles.
The app was developed by the city’s Information and Technology Management Division in an effort to expedite the process for residents to report a variety of problems including potholes.
“It’s just another channel for customers or citizens to interact with their local government,” said Nancy Olson, Milwaukee’s chief information officer.
Only 386 service requests have been filed with the city despite the convenience of the app.
It is a small number compared to thousands of phone calls handled by the city on a daily basis according to Olson.
Individuals have the option of filing anonymous complaints and also checking the status of their report using this app.
Although the app makes it easier for residents to file a request, it doesn’t improve the city’s response time for fixing the issue.
Since Mayor Barrett announced the mobile app last September, it has been acquired by 3,000 residents, although low numbers are the result of minimal downloads and negligible advertising as many residents remain unaware of this new development.
Besides other issues, street lighting seems to be the biggest concern of residents with 73 filed complaints, while potholes are a close second with 69 complaints so far.
City maintenance workers report spending about a day-and-a-half to address pothole complaints while accepting 40-50 complaints a day, but it can be tricky working on busy streets according to Steven Plevak, whose team is one of eight filling potholes throughout the city.
“We like to average about three days on a response when a location comes into our call center,” said Plevak.
The pothole situation has been a perennial bane for the City of Milwaukee as thawing into spring takes effect. Milwaukee has budgeted $17 million on roads, while spending roughly $140,000 patching up roads in 2014 and $100,000 in 2013. Milwaukee Department of Public Works (DPW) commissioner Ghassan Korban predicted the worst is yet to come
“Every dollar we spend on fixing potholes, that’s a dollar that’s taken away from resurfacing and reconstruction,” Korban told the Journal Sentinel.
A 2013 report by TRIP, a Washington D.C.-based transportation research group, revealed Milwaukee has the eighth highest percentage of major roads in poor condition among large cities in the United States with 180 miles of roads in poor condition.
It would cost an estimated $176 million to replace those roads according to the DPW.
Mayor Barrett has a plan to amend Milwaukee’s yearly pothole problem.
He calls it Extreme Makeover Milwaukee Edition. In his 2015 State of the City Address, Barrett announced that he will send out a High Impact Paving Program to pave 21 miles of Milwaukee streets.
The team will be repaving an entire street in one day.
The MKE Mobile app is available for free download from iTunes and Android stores.