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The Scoop - Paving company should pay damages

In a tidbit of mostly useless information, I used to live way out Smithville Highway in the Green Hill area. It was beautiful countryside, but too far from town for my liking.

If there was one thing I learned while living in that community it was never to forget your sneakers for an evening jog, or forget anything else for that matter, because driving home was about 40 minutes round trip.

Another thing I learned fairly well was Smithville Highway. I learned every curve, every crest, every bump in the road. In all my years of driving up and down Smithville Highway, my vehicle, thankfully, never once suffered a cracked windshield.

With all the shared history I have with Smithville Highway, I have to think something went terribly wrong with road construction that's getting finished on that venerable two-lane. As everyone in the newsroom can attest, we've received daily phone calls about damage suffered by vehicles while the highway has been getting paved.

It's been explained to me what went wrong during road work and, not being in the paving business, I'm not exactly sure what that explanation means. What I do know is there was an unhealthy amount of loose gravel left along Smithville Highway and that gravel has caused widespread damage to vehicles.

Motorists are naturally upset. One lady called me in tears on Monday, yes literally crying on the phone, saying her very nice and new vehicle has heavy damage. She takes great pride in her vehicle, told me she still owes $150,000 on it, and said she is bracing for what the cost might be to repair it.

Her story is common.

TDOT is washing its hands of the situation, saying it paid Tinsley Asphalt a tidy sum, $1.9 million, to handle the project. Based on several calls I have received, Tinsley has been denying all damage claims. I called the Tinsley office for a comment on the situation and have not yet received a return phone call.

In my unscientific estimation, I believe Tinsley Asphalt is to blame for this mess and should do the right thing and cover damages. The company clearly realized there was a problem, as evident by the many "Loose Gravel" signs it placed along the highway seemingly every 1,000 yards.

There was never a rash of cracked windshields before road construction. Then construction hits and there are many cracked windshields that have been brought to my attention.

In talking to a local insurance agent, he told me the new windshields he has been pricing for customers have been in the $200 to $225 range. If Tinsley were to replace 100 windshields, which seems a high estimate, the company would be out $22,500, or about 1.2 percent of the total project.

It seems in the scope of a $1.9 million project, helping motorists replace their windshields, or fixing other dents and dings, will not break the bank. It would be the proper approach for the company to take, as opposed to the fiasco we're experiencing from outraged motorists who aren't getting their damage covered.

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.