But as the snow melts into parks filled with daffodils, the ire of every New York driver has also reared its head: potholes. After a grueling winter, driving along the FDR these days – particularly northbound above 125th Street – is a risk to your sanity and the condition of your vehicle, to put it mildly. The roads are so pocked with broken and cracked asphalt that it’s a wonder tow trucks aren’t seen more often removing disabled vehicles from the clogged roadways. And clogged they are. If you’re forced to drive into Manhattan on a weekend, you’ll be hard pressed to make it anywhere on time. On Saturdays and Sundays, drivers are funneled into one-lane bottlenecks as road crews begin to fill the large and gaping holes on the FDR Drive and the Westside Highway.
The sorry state of New York’s roads and bridges is not new news. Our transportation infrastructure is crumbling, and it’s costing motorists dearly. Last month, a leading national transportation think tank, TRIP, released a study that put a $6.3 billion price tag on the failure to keep New York’s roads and bridges in good condition. That’s the cost motorists pay each year in vehicle wear and tear, greater fuel consumption, and accelerated vehicle depreciation by traveling over the state’s substandard roads and bridges. Drivers in New York City foot more than 10% or $663 million of these additional operating expenses. Over 40% of City roads are in poor condition, while just under half of its bridges are functionally obsolete.
The clarion call of economic waste couldn’t be any louder. To maintain a road that’s in good condition costs $85,000 per lane mile, or 19 times less than the $1.625 million per lane mile to rebuild a poorly maintained road. The average nationwide return on every dollar spent on improvements to roads, highways, and bridges is $5.20, and with TRIP citing that highway accessibility ranks as the second biggest factor when businesses choose locations, the long-term consequences of our systemic underspending at home could be grave.
Unfortunately, when it came time to allocate a $6 billion cash surplus during budget negotiations, Albany gave none to cyclical upkeep of New York’s roads and bridges. The MTA made out better – $250 million to bring Metro-North service to underserved areas in the East Bronx and into Penn Station – but that’s only a down payment on the project, while $15 billion of its $32-billion modernization and expansion program for the 2015-19 period next remains unfunded. Just like motorists, transit riders are paying a steep price, as seen in the ever-escalating fares, unbearable crowding and routine subway delays, and service that doesn’t reach outer borough residents most in need.
The Move NY Fair Plan would address this looming crisis. This innovative transportation financing proposal would simultaneously reallocate the toll burden in the City (lowering the steep levies on the MTA crossings while establishing modest tolls on the now-free city-run East River Bridges) and generate revenue to meet the funding needs of our transportation network – $375 million a year in dedicated funding for roads and bridges, and $1.5 billion for transit. When bonded, these revenues would fill the gap in the MTA’s current $14 billion shortfall in its 5-year capital plan. But it takes Albany to make it a reality.
The status quo is no longer sustainable. Not if New York is to remain a world capital. New York’s success was built on a transportation system that was fast, safe, and fair. Isn’t it time to return to those principles?
Categories: MTA Capital Plan 2015-2019