City streets crumble while DOT fumbles

Jasmin K. Williams | 4/12/2011, 4:46 p.m.

Robert Sinclair Jr., manager of media relations for AAA of New York City spoke with the Amsterdam News about the city's pothole dilemma.

"The problem is that it's not just on the tertiary roads but on the main highways. I hit a major hole on the Long Island Expressway. That's a federally maintained road. We have an overpopulation of trucks because we lack a rail freight tunnel in New York City. One truck does the damage of 2,000 cars. Most trucks are overweight. The weather is the other culprit. You combine the precipitation with the freeze-and-thaw cycle, and that creates a bumper crop of potholes," Sinclair said.

"The scouring action of the plows also contributes, with all that scraping. We usually don't see this type of problem until mid-March. The Road Improvement Program in Washington, D.C., came out with a list of cities with the worst roads, and New York City and Newark, N.J., were tied for sixth place. It costs the average New Yorker about $600 to maintain their vehicle because of bad roads. Tire rims, suspension components, steering components, steering racks and springs all suffer because of bad roads. Smaller cars are even more prone, because there's less space between the rubber and the road. This could lead to a crash--it's a safety concern as well as a monetary problem. We used to have a device called a joltometer, which was a seismic device that we'd put in a vehicle to measure the intensity of the impact of the potholes on the vehicle. It's not in use anymore, but it's something I think we should put back in the budget to help monitor the roads," he said.

"If I were to offer advice to drivers, it would be twofold: First, keep your tires properly inflated or every slightly overinflated based on the manufacturer's recommendation so that the car can better deal with hitting a hole. Hitting the pothole is not what does the major damage--it's when you come out and hit the outer lip that does the damage.

"When you're driving, don't tailgate because sometimes a pothole will emerge in front of the vehicle in front of you and you won't have time to react if you're too close. Watch the movement of the vehicle in front of you," he concluded.

If your vehicle is damaged by a pothole, you can file a claim with the City of New York. Visit the New York City Comptroller's website to fill out the PDF claim form, or call (212) 669-3500.