I was rushing to catch my train in Union Station in Washington last Wednesday evening when I tripped over an uneven piece of pavement on the platform and hurt my ankle, only slightly. Exiting New York’s Penn Station a few hours later on Seventh Avenue, I saw the exact same thing happen to a woman, only she looked much worse off than me and had to lean on her husband to walk.
A Chinese friend who visited the United States for the first time last week was shocked to see the poor road conditions in Manhattan. The potholes in New York City certainly outnumber those in Shanghai or Beijing, she said. She could not understand why New York City had done nothing or so little given that the 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly will be held in September, with the arrival of more than 100 world leaders.
In China, it would have been a total facelift like people saw ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the 2010 Shanghai World Expo and the 2016 G20 summit.
New York City, often ranked top among world cities, unfortunately also ranks sixth among the 10 American cities with the worst pothole problems.
Other cities that made into the top 10 include Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Bridgeport (Connecticut), Tucson, San Diego, San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles, with LA being the worst.
A report released in January by TRIP, a Washington-based national transportation research group, rated 51 percent of the roads in the New York City metro area in poor condition, 31 percent mediocre and only 5 percent and 13 percent in fair and good condition, respectively.
Statewide, 38 percent of the major, locally and state-maintained urban roads and highways have pavement rated in poor condition; another 42 percent in mediocre or fair condition and the remaining 21 percent in good condition.
TRIP estimates that additional vehicle operating costs (VOC) borne by New York state motorists as a result of poor road conditions is $6.3 billion annually. For New York City Metro area, that VOC per motorist is $791 because of rough road conditions.
The report also finds that a total of 5,775 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes in New York from 2010 through 2014, an average of 1,155 fatalities per year. Three factors are cited for the accidents – driver behavior, vehicle characteristics and roadway features. It estimated that roadway features are likely a contributing factor in approximately one-third of fatal traffic crashes.
The same report also finds that bridge conditions in New York State and New York City are not good and funding is inadequate. Poor road and bridge conditions also cause congestion and huge losses to local economic growth.
The report warns that it is critical that roads are fixed before they require major repairs, because reconstructing roads costs approximately four times the price of resurfacing them.
“As roads and highways continue to age, they will reach a point of deterioration where routine paving and maintenance will not be adequate to keep pavement surfaces in good condition and costly reconstruction of the roadway and its underlying surfaces will become necessary,” it says.
Nationwide, potholes cost American drivers $6.4 billion each year, according to another report. The American Society of Civil Engineers says that fixing crumbling infrastructure would cost taxpayers $2.7 trillion. The same group gave a D+ to the overall US infrastructure conditions back in 2013 in a study conducted once every four years.
The situation is so dire that US presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have both pledged to spend more on infrastructure to cater to the public grievances.
Clinton has proposed $275 billion in new infrastructure spending over the next five years while Trump vowed to more than double that figure. Clearly no one knows if these politicians are just paying lip service to this issue.
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