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View Full Version : Terrible roads in NYC, especially Manhattan



MrSpice
September 21st, 2009, 05:39 PM
Hello folks,

I wonder if anyone shares my frustration with the quality of the roadways in New York City. Not only the road quality is terrible by any standard but it's been getting worse over the past few years. I only drive on weekends but truly hate endless potholes and bumps. Many streets in Manhattan are in desperate need of resurfacing. But even after they resurface the roads, the quality of that work in the city seems to be very poor, because the roads here degrade in quality quickly, unlike those in the suburbs. Every time you cross the city border by car from Westchester, NJ or Long Island, you "feel it".

I wrote to the NYC Department of Transportation and the Mayor's office several times. Predictably, I only got automated replied.

I just returned from a long vacation trip to several European countries. I have not hit a single pothole or bump in all that time. Even the most prestigious streets in Midtown (take Madison in the 50s and 60s) are full of potholes.

I wonder why the "greatest city in the world" cannot maintain its roads in decent shape (in addition to its subways and other forms of transportation) while spending millions in city, state and federal funds?

futurecity
September 21st, 2009, 06:35 PM
Its the same everywhere in the USA really. A disgrace, but you can thank our divided government and massive spending on wars for the lack of funds for our uban cities. The USA federal and state governments as a whole should be ashamed at the neglect they show to the urban realm. Especially, their most important cities and showcases to outsiders. Disgusting, the lack of interest in our aesthetics..might as well be in Lagos, but i'm sure their main streets are kept in better condition. The more I think of it, the more I think this country is too big and too diverse for anything to get done under our political system. Would be better off breaking up. The many ideas and views spoil any progress, and cities suffer because our federal system gives too much say to people who hate cities. Euros actually care about things like well paved roads.... they don't mind paying extra for their cities to look nice at the expense of their own purchasing power.

Tectonic
September 21st, 2009, 07:47 PM
They're Socialist, we're Capitalist Ggrrr.

lofter1
September 21st, 2009, 08:25 PM
Get the government out of our roads. They have no business there -- shouldn't pay for them or dig them up.

Free the Roadways!

Stroika
September 21st, 2009, 11:22 PM
Yes, the roads in Manhattan are a mess. They're heavily trafficked and under-funded. But roads in rural areas are very, very nice. This summer, I drove down to Virginia from NYC, west to Niagara Falls and north to Montreal. Interstate highways -- and roads in smaller towns -- are, by and large, in very good shape.

The issue isn't that there's not enough money sloshing around -- nearly $50 billion is spent each year on maintaining roads in the US -- but the way that money is distributed.

Because the vast majority of highway funding comes from the federal government, Congress is in charge of spending it. In order to keep as many states happy as possible, the money is distributed more or less evenly to states, regardless of population or traffic levels.

Moreover, when it's distributed, the federal government doesn't determine how it's spent at the state level; state legislatures do. Like the federal government, they spread the money around to as many areas as possible (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/09/us/09projects.html) ... again, in order to avoid angering any electoral districts. So what you have is a system that spreads money in terms of area, not population density or traffic levels. The upshot is that Iowa highways are some of the world's nicest roads ... and Madison between 50th and 60th, where the constant stress of traffic creates much greater maintenance needs, looks like the lunar surface.

Point being, I suppose, that like many areas of government spending (education, healthcare, military), what we see isn't a shortage of federal liquidity, but a lack of checks on politicians and parties that tend to butter up their own constituencies to the detriment of common sense and the larger population's transportation/infrastructure (or education, health, defense) needs.

Edward
September 22nd, 2009, 09:42 AM
Reading this, the condition of roads from the Iron Triangle in Queens comes to mind, see my photo of Willets Point Boulevard (http://wirednewyork.com/2009/08/iron-triangle-queens/) (that's right, Boulevard) - the puddles never go away.

BrooklynRider
September 22nd, 2009, 09:59 AM
I think the outer boroughs are finally getting some love from the city. Flatbush Avenue Extension is getting repaved. The BQE along the East River is getting paved.

MrSpice
September 22nd, 2009, 10:17 AM
Its the same everywhere in the USA really. A disgrace, but you can thank our divided government and massive spending on wars for the lack of funds for our uban cities.

No, it's not the same everywhere. Try driving down Long Island Expressway: once you cross into the Nassau county in Long Island the road quality becomes that of German Autobahn. I took taxi from Newark airport this past weekend. Once you cross into the city from Lincoln Tunnel you hit one pothole after another. I recently visited Israel where I rented the car for a week. In one week of extensive driving around Israel I have not hit a single pothole. I am not exaggerating - not one! On the way from the airport to my home in Manhattan I felt dozens. Something wrong with the way this city resurfacing the roads and how it's done. It's not just a matter of dollars.

NYatKNIGHT
September 22nd, 2009, 11:05 AM
It's not that they don't resurface, as you said, there seems to always be a road being resurfaced (from my perspective anyway). There are many, many newly paved roads in Manhattan. How the subgrade is constructed is probably the biggest factor in pothole formation.

My street was resurfaced last year when they rebuilt Houston Street. Houston has a concrete subsurface and my street does not. Houston still looks brand new and my street has a gaping pothole so deep they have a traffic cone in it. (Can't wait to see how long that stays there).

Another way the streets are cheaply resurfaced is that they seem to just groove the pavement then add asphalt. Repairs aren't made to the subsurface and old asphalt is just left there. So each time it is resurfaced the street elevation rises a few inches. Eventually the road surface is almost at or right at the top of the curb. It's not supposed to be that way. Six inch curbs are there for a reason - to carry stormwater to the catch basins without inundating the sidewalk.

And how often does this happen - a street is dug up and being worked on intermittently for weeks or months, and FINALLY they do the resurfacing. The street looks better than it has in years. Then the utility or cable company comes and digs a trench in it, then recovers it unevenly.

Ninjahedge
September 22nd, 2009, 11:47 AM
Reading this, the condition of roads from the Iron Triangle in Queens comes to mind, see my photo of Willets Point Boulevard (http://wirednewyork.com/2009/08/iron-triangle-queens/) (that's right, Boulevard) - the puddles never go away.


Those aren't puddles, but miniature wetland preserves.

They are important to the Toxic Mosquito Farmers of our great city and we would lose a valuable resource w/o them!!!!!

>wark<

Ninjahedge
September 22nd, 2009, 11:59 AM
NY@N....

Yep. I see it here on 3rd avenue (right by the post office, in front of McD's.)

The thing here is that the subsurface is NOT repaired or replaced. The budget gets spent on the immediate fix, not long term repair, and we see the results.

As for the patchwork, I fume at that as well. Hoboken had quite a few streets repaves, only to have new developments come in and gouge new utility lines right into it.

With all the graft that is undoubtedly in Hoboken, I am surprised they did not require new construction of anything larger than XX square feet to be forced to repave any road they dig up, the ENTIRE ROAD WIDTH +25' or so length from the extents of their excavation, rather than these cheap uncompacted asphalt and tar strips....


As for NYC in general, it is very difficult to do a major roadway resurfacing for several reasons.

1. The Unions. I am not saying that Unions are bad, but the DOT and the guys working on these jobs just don't put their back into it.

2. Bureaucracy. Persistent potholes are jst put on the "fill me" list and not a proper repair list until something gets damaged or someone hurt. This needs to be changed.

3. Inconvenience. Closing down some of these roads to do the job properly, and for how long it takes our DOT to do it, is a HUGE hassle. Half paving roads never works quite right in the city for some reason....

I am not saying that repaving is not worth it, but we seriously need a change to how it is done if it is to be done right.

Ed007Toronto
September 22nd, 2009, 12:16 PM
Reading this, the condition of roads from the Iron Triangle in Queens comes to mind, see my photo of Willets Point Boulevard (that's right, Boulevard) - the puddles never go away.

If you didn't say that was Queens I would have thought the photo was from some third world country.

User Name
September 22nd, 2009, 03:52 PM
If you didn't say that was Queens I would have thought the photo was from some third world country.
Looks like a parking area to me - not a street. Still it is bad enough to have me say "they should really fix that."

Edward
September 22nd, 2009, 04:12 PM
It's not a parking area and it's not a street - it's a Boulevard!

lofter1
September 22nd, 2009, 04:24 PM
Take away a bit of the mud and that's pretty much what Gansevoort Street used to look like a few years back, down in the Meatpacking District at the big intersection where Gansevoort hits Washington.

Tectonic
September 22nd, 2009, 07:08 PM
http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2009/09/sleepless_on_li.php

September 22, 2009

Sleepless on Livingston (http://www.brownstoner.com/brownstoner/archives/2009/09/sleepless_on_li.php)



According to the Livingston Street resident who sent in this video (http://vimeo.com/6698675), it's been hard to get any sleep the past couple of nights. After watching, we can see why!

Jeffreyny
September 22nd, 2009, 11:15 PM
I drive only on weekends but have hit a massive pot whole twice on Delancey Street right at the entrance of the Williamsburg Bridge and blew the tires.

The road conditions in New York are a disgrace. Drive down 55th between 2nd and 3rd. It's unbelievable.


In all fairness New York is dealt some harshly cold weather in winter and heat in summer. Add some salt and snow plows and it's clear to see that with the quantity of traffic, density, poor repairs and wear and tear why pot holes are numerous.

That said, it is no excuse for what are embarrassing road conditions. Poor roads, decrepit subway stations and many garbage strewn streets are several aspects of this city that keep it comparable to those of the third world.

lofter1
September 22nd, 2009, 11:55 PM
You must be a newcomer to NYC.

Third World? Ridiculous.

One on-going situation that creates the roadway problem is the world of infrastructure that exists beneath the road bed.

Go to LA and you'll see that they still have above-ground electric lines all along some major avenues & boulevards. And they don't have steam lines running down below.

Garbage on main drags? Blame the grid system that left out alleyways.

Ninjahedge
September 23rd, 2009, 01:54 PM
Actually, blame the 5% of people out there that think it is too much hassle to throw their own stuff away, and the 99.99% of people that believe "if it aint mine, I aint touchin it!".

(I am, regrettably, of the latter in most cases).

As for the roads? They are in poor condition, but again, for people who keep screaming about Taxes and costs, we are not likely to spend the money needed to fix the infrastructur, just enough to keep painting it over every few years.


Speaking of screaming, what's with the TWU yelling at Bloomie? They have to have one of the best city deals out there for comparitively unskilled labor. What has he done recently that has all of them out here in the mid-40's?

Jeffreyny
September 23rd, 2009, 02:06 PM
You must be a newcomer to NYC.

Third World? Ridiculous.

One on-going situation that creates the roadway problem is the world of infrastructure that exists beneath the road bed.

Go to LA and you'll see that they still have above-ground electric lines all along some major avenues & boulevards. And they don't have steam lines running down below.

Garbage on main drags? Blame the grid system that left out alleyways.

Actually I was born here although did live in Europe for over 15 years. Comparisons with the third world are not far off. Have you taken a subway in any other country in the world and seen stations in worse condition that those of NY? Have you driven down streets in other countries? In developed countries you'd be hard pressed to find roads in worse condition than those of Manhattan.

Ninjahedge
September 23rd, 2009, 03:21 PM
Have you been to third world countries where that particular stop could get you to as many places as NYC's can? And at the same relative price?

There are not many, if any, 3rd world subways! ;)

ZippyTheChimp
September 23rd, 2009, 04:37 PM
There are not many, if any, 3rd world subways! ;)The term "Third World Country" sure gets thrown around a lot, doesn't it.

Actually, if you use the term as originally coined, there are plenty of subways in the Third World. During the Cold War, countries non-aligned with East or West were called Third World. Like South America.

Now it means poor and underdeveloped. Yes, not too many subways there.

Jeffreyny
September 23rd, 2009, 10:13 PM
Have you been to third world countries where that particular stop could get you to as many places as NYC's can? And at the same relative price?

There are not many, if any, 3rd world subways! ;)

Mexico City comes to mind...

ZippyTheChimp
September 23rd, 2009, 10:23 PM
Mexico City is third world?

Jeffreyny
September 23rd, 2009, 10:46 PM
Mexico City is third world?

I haven't consulted the Oxford dictionary for the precise definition of third world but I think it's safe to say that Mexico as a country comes quite close.
Specific terminology aside I think the point of my prior posts was more than clear.

ZippyTheChimp
September 23rd, 2009, 11:06 PM
^
I take from your posts that by "third world," you mean poor and undeveloped. I took that into account in my question.

Do some research on Mexico city.

Jeffreyny
September 23rd, 2009, 11:28 PM
^
I take from your posts that by "third world," you mean poor and undeveloped. I took that into account in my question.

Do some research on Mexico city.

research on Mexico City..? You're kidding right? I know it well.
You seem to be missing the point that Mexico City, a third world country's largest city,
has far superior subway stations to that of NYC. It's really that simple since apparently I had to spell it out. Anyway this way off topic and quite boring.

ZippyTheChimp
September 23rd, 2009, 11:40 PM
^
Instead of spelling it out, you should make sure you know what you're talking about before making uninformed statement.

Mexico City (the federal district) is one of the richest metro areas in the world. The government is corrupt, and the majority of the wealth, including transportation infrastructure, is concentrated here, to the disadvantage of much of the rest of the country.

No, I'm wasn't kidding.

The Mexico City subway is in Mexico City.

If this is way off topic, you took it there with uninformed hyperbole.

Ninjahedge
September 24th, 2009, 08:57 AM
The term "Third World Country" sure gets thrown around a lot, doesn't it.

Actually, if you use the term as originally coined, there are plenty of subways in the Third World. During the Cold War, countries non-aligned with East or West were called Third World. Like South America.

Now it means poor and underdeveloped. Yes, not too many subways there.


I was avoiding the literal definition, as many think 3rd world to be, everyone who is not well-off.

I tried to find information abut this, but there does not seem to be much desire to name or categorize 2nd world..... I remember looking it up, but the definition is rather fuzzy.


As for Mexico City, that is not really 3red world by its new definition. When yuo think 3rd world you think of ox-carts and street peddlers, not skyscrapers and highways. By that same definition, Shanghai could almost be considered 3rd world in that many areas NOT in Shanghai (but in china) are dirt poor and struggling.

But whatever, as zip is saying, this is getting OT. I really do not care about China's infrastructure.

NYC is by NO means our permutated definition of "3rd world". It is simply an industrialized city in need of some work on its frame rather than new tires and a paint job.....

ZippyTheChimp
September 24th, 2009, 09:13 AM
One on-going situation that creates the roadway problem is the world of infrastructure that exists beneath the road bed.I remember the first time I saw this on a downtown street, which was being ripped up and repaired.

We had to relocate and protect communication conduits. I expected an orderly arrangement of infrastructure - water pipes here, electrical there, etc. The roadbed was removed curb to curb. It looked like a bowl of spaghetti.

We can always go back to this:
http://www.porticus.org/bell/images/phone_lines.jpg

Ninjahedge
September 24th, 2009, 10:20 AM
NYC was not pre-planned. Everything went where it was needed when it was needed and that was it.

Very organic.

Many cities that followe the same lack of pre-planning suffer the same problems with their infrastructure and its repair/upgrading, but NYC is probably a few steps further than that due to its size and its geographically restricted forced concentration.

Oddly enough, the very thing that caused the spaghetti (congestion, lack of space) may also be what could make it the best in the world (shared conduits/trunk lines/etc). Key is, getting the $$ to be able to do that. Not all infrastructure is Civic. It would be nice if BoA were to pitch in heavily to the project that will supply it with water/power....

MrSpice
September 24th, 2009, 03:28 PM
Why don't we, the concerned citizens, spend 1 minute and drop a line to the Commissioner of NYC Department of Transportation to let her know about the poor state of the roads in our neighborhoods:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/mail/html/maildot.html

If 1 or 2 people complain, they don't care. But if many people complain maybe someone will notice and realize that something needs to be done.

Feel free to call your local borough DOT commissioner as well:
http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/contactdot/assist.shtml

lofter1
September 24th, 2009, 09:22 PM
LOL ^

We've been trying (many of us) to get DOT and our lame duck City Councilmember (the soon to be gone Alan Gerson -- pretty much useless for 2 terms) to fix the crumbling streets & crosswalks throughout Soho and environs for years. All to no avail.

It seems everything in this town that isn't getting done is due to "on-going litigation" between various contractors and the City, which apprently is the case in regard to some fancy crosswalks installed at many Soho intersections (see "Deutsche Bank" or "Pier A" for other examples).

But don't let that stop you. And good luck.

Tectonic
September 27th, 2009, 11:14 AM
Oh my...I think the world is always evolving some areas more rapidly or efficiently than others of course. Maybe we're second world, lol....now.

Derek2k3
September 27th, 2009, 10:19 PM
For the avenues on the grid why not ban street parking and expand the sidewalks. Though parked cars provide a buffer for pedestrians, Fifth Avenue looks great without them.

Also I noticed concrete decked streets like the West Side Highway or Sixth Avenue hardly have any potholes. Why is that, and why don't they use concrete more instead of asphalt?

Lastly the city should start a decade long plan on fixing up the Manhattan streetscape. It's be great if all our sidewalks were as wide, gum-free, and ashlar paved like the ones along City Hall Park.

http://concretematdesign.com/images/ashlar-slate.jpg

We've come miles from decades past so why not keep going.

Ninjahedge
September 28th, 2009, 10:43 AM
Concrete is not as pliable as Asphalt, and takes longer to set (a few days, if you do not use chemical additives for quick-set).

They have to be done in controlled segments, and are vulnerable to cracking and differential settlement problems (look at some sidewalks, the way they poke up with the tree-root infiltration).

They lasy longer, but I think they are more prone to "polish", getting very smooth and being a hazard in wet weather.

There are advantages and disadvantages. Concrete lasts longer, but when it fails, sometimes it fails suddenly (if you have erosion under the slab, it will support it for a while, then just crack one day when the hole is too big/load is too heavy). It also costs more to install.. so....

ZippyTheChimp
September 28th, 2009, 11:04 AM
Asphalt is the better choice on roads that are heavily used and need to be dug open frequently.

The problem is the concrete sub-strate. If it's properly maintained, the asphalt layer can be quickly scraped off and replaced. You see this on highways, where a stretch of road can be done in a week.

Often in the city, when the concrete sub-strate is cut through, the repair is poor (out of sight, out of mind). It's the failure of the concrete that causes potholes.

Unlike in the past, cobble stone streets are built the same way as asphalt, with a concrete layer under the sand bed that the stones sit in. They fail for the same reason - the sub-strate.

Ninjahedge
September 28th, 2009, 01:40 PM
Zip, I think the main reason for the concrete road bed in the city is for load distribution. You do not want concentrated loads bearing directly on who-knows-what (your "spaghetti" reference on another thread/post).

Asphalt also stinks in hot weather. You need something solid underneath it, but I am pretty sure that most highways that are asphalt only have sand and gravel (and compacted soil) as their substrates....

(I know that would NOT work in the city. Too many places for water to flow and go, you wuold not have anything supporting your asphalt and it would end up looking like that pothole on Washington down around Leroy street a few years back... the one they put a GARBAGE CAN in to make sure people saw it?)

ZippyTheChimp
September 28th, 2009, 04:48 PM
There's usually a Pothole Photo Op in early January. The mayor shows up at some neighborhood with a shovel and several DOT people in tow, and ceremoniously fills in a representative hole.

Here's your chance Mr Spice. Take along some broken suspension parts for effect. Guarantee you'll get on TV.

lofter1
September 28th, 2009, 06:40 PM
They re-did Sixth Avenue in midtown a few years back: A concrete sub-bed topped with asphalt.

The newly re-built Houston Street was similarly re-done. Seems they've left some bus stop areas with exposed concrete, rather than topping them with asphalt.

Derek2k3
September 30th, 2009, 06:12 PM
Thanks for the insight guys.
I also liked concrete site it's lighter in color and would probably reduce the urban heat island effect.

asg
October 14th, 2009, 05:58 AM
As a city resident without a car, the biggest advantage of asphalt roadways is that they are much quieter. Living by the concrete surfaced West St, the noise even at low speeds is just numbing. It also doesn't help that this roadway is grooved (state DOT skid-resistant) which makes it even louder.

Potholes in asphalt usually occur when old roadways are smoothed out with a thin wearing layer, not when new asphalt roadways are constructed.

Ninjahedge
October 14th, 2009, 09:36 AM
It goes both ways ASG, but you are right about it being more prone when a layer of asphalt is placed over something like cobble (the two do not behave the same in varying weather, so you get spalling pretty easily).

The true pothole comes from subsurface deterioration. When your base either gets eroded or settles unevenly, you get a big one. The others are usually from ice expansion and are not as man-eating, but can still do a number on your car!

As for noise? Living in Hoboken with busses and delivery trucks constantly coming up and down Washington street... concrete would not be noticiably louder!!! Well, maybe the echoes from the drunks would be, but that is only a few hours a night... ;)