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Road Repairs to Improve Safety Elusive in New York City

Nearly three-quarters of New York City's roads are in poor or mediocre condition, according to a national non-profit transportation organization, TRIP. More disturbingly, half of all bridges in the city do not meet current design and safety standards.

The report, "Conditions and Safety of New York's Roads and Bridges," notes that 43 percent of major local and state-maintained highways in the city are in poor condition, and only 16 percent are in good condition. Furthermore, 39 percent of locally and state-maintained bridges of more than 20 feet in length are in deteriorated condition.

Furthermore, they often have very narrow lanes. Most disturbingly, nine percent of New York's bridges are structurally deficient, meaning that there is significant deterioration of the deck, supports or other components. In many instances, bridges in such condition have restrictions, such as weight. height and axle limits.

The report notes that improvements could reduce the number of traffic fatalities in the city. Such improvements include adding or improving medians, better lighting, adding rumble strips, making lanes wider, wider and paved shoulders on parkways, and better and more visible lane markers. Improvements such as these could not only improve safety, but also reduce crippling congestion that not just an irritant to drivers, but that reduces the city's appeal as a business location.

However, there are other improvements that do not represent significant infrastructure investments. Rather they are simple maintenance that can make the roads in New York City. Filling potholes could save New York City drivers $2,300 a year, according to a 2014 story in the Daily News.

So far in the winter of 2014-2015, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has repaired 158,000 potholes. This may sound like a lot, but the DOT says it is behind because of the unusually severe and long-lasting winter. Moreover, the DOT has a long-standing policy of laying off 200 workers every December and rehiring them in March, making it difficult to get a head-start on pothole work.

Given that the city has trouble fixing potholes, New York City drivers should not expect fast action on the deteriorating bridges and crumbling roadways, even though the economic and safety impact of doing nothing is significant.