WHAT HAS HAPPENED to the streets of this city? They are a paving mess, or more properly, a disaster. If you didn't know better, you could think the District had passed a seat-belt law to protect people from flying through the tops of their cars when they crash over and into what must be the greatest collection of potholes, canyons, foothills and Alps ever to deface the streets of Washington. All around town the roads are not only bottomless in spots but also bumpy, hilly, cracked, ribbed, unlined and generally falling apart.

You don't even have to be a motorist to suffer this mess, either. If you are on a Metrobus, just listen to that fare box shaking like an eight-piece mariachi band; or ride a bicycle for the full effect. It is true that smart budgeting says the repairs should wait until the big snows are history and the freeze-unfreeze weeks have taken their toll. But some of the worst stretches of road have been that way since well before the last snow-ice season. Can Washington not have smooth, travel-worthy streets, ever? It also seems that the super-big, road-ripping repair jobs have been taking inordinate periods of time.

As for the pothole-filling, officials always note that there is no cement throw rug that will do a permanent, weatherproof patch job. Still, temporary fillings -- at least -- are in order downtown and in the neighborhoods, unless the city starts requiring all motorists and passengers to wear helmets.

The people at the Department of Public Works do say that they want to know where those holes are, particularly the most dangerous ones, and that they will move in to fix them. So report, quickly and with details. There is no excuse for roads being in the condition Washington's are, and the District should be made to do something about it.