NEW YORK — The potholes that mar city streets this year are on track to be as bad as the pockmarked roads of the 1970s unless Bill de Blasio devotes serious funding to resurfacing efforts, a former Department of Transportation commissioner warns.
Lucius Riccio, an operations researcher at Columbia University who led the DOT under the Dinkins Administration, analyzed nearly 20 years of data and found that New York could see between 250,000 and 300,000 potholes by the end of spring — one of the highest numbers in recent history.
That would put roads on par with the roadways of the 1970s, he told Columbia’s Data Science Institute.
“A high number of potholes indicates a failure to maintain city streets,” Riccio told the Institute. “Fixing potholes rather than preventing them is far more costly.”
The DOT said in a statement that “Potholes form due to freeze/thaw cycles during harsh weather months and DOT prepares for this challenge each year with pothole repair blitzes that blanket the city.”
But Riccio found in his research that while bad winters are commonly blamed for driving up potholes, chronic underfunding of roadwork is the root cause of 80 percent of all roadway issues, while bad weather only makes up 20 percent of the issues, according to the report.
Since the mid-1990s, the city has cut back on road funds, resurfacing only 600 lane-miles per year as opposed to the 1,000 necessary to keep pace with deterioration, he said.
With subsequent years of insufficient repaving, this has created a backlog of road problems, he found.
Credit: Mandeep Singh, Data Science Institute, Columbia University
According to the Institute, Riccio sent his research last year to current DOT commissioner Polly Trottenberg, convincing her to increase road resurfacing from 1,000 lane-miles to 1,200, soon to be 1,300 in fiscal year 2017.
Last week, de Blasio filled the 1-millionth pothole in his administration, calling this a “milestone” in a press release.
According to the DOT, an additional $242 million is being dedicated to road repaving over two fiscal years.