Nearly five feet of snow has fallen on Long Island amid an especially harsh winter, opening up more potholes on local roadways than the moon has craters—frustrating drivers and road crews.
The cost of pothole repairs on roadways maintained by New York State in Nassau and Suffolk counties has nearly quadrupled from $354,877 last year to $1,397,193 so far this year, according to the state Department of Transportation. Driver advocates and government officials on both sides of the county line also report increases this season.
“Oh, it’s definitely worse this year,” said Chris McBride, the Community Transportation Specialist for the American Automobile Association (AAA). “I’ve noticed throughout January, and now into February, a lot more potholes than usual. It’s like a minefield out there.”
Nearly 59 inches of snow has fallen on the region as of early March, well above the average of about 20 inches by now, according to Upton-based National Weather Service forecasters.
Potholes are formed when water seeps below the pavement, freezes, expands and causes the asphalt above to bend and crack. The pressure of thousands of vehicles running over the weakened point in the roadway then causes the street to crumble. Areas where water is closer to the surface tend to have more potholes.
The cycle turned stretches of Long Island Expressway, among other roadways, into Swiss cheese.
“In just two days [in February], crews used 136 tons of asphalt to repair potholes on the Long Island Expressway,” said Eileen Peters, the LI regional spokeswoman for the state transportation department. She added that the agency has responded to over a 1,000 pothole reports.
Nassau and Suffolk county officials said the price tag for pothole repairs was not yet available, but there were signs that this year is worse than before in both counties.
“As of the middle of last week, we received 88 pothole complaints [for Suffolk roads], which were up 10 percent from last year,” Vanessa Baird-Streeter, a Suffolk spokeswoman, said last month. “We’re trying to repair the potholes as quickly as possible… however, you have to be very cognizant of the roadways.”
Michael Martino, a spokesman for the Nassau County Department of Public Works, said his agency has responded to more than 100 calls as of early March.
“The majority of pothole reports received by the County are for non-County roads,” he added.
Hempstead town officials declared “war on potholes” after a Levittown man reportedly started filling the holes himself out of frustration.
The AAA’s McBride said his group usually receives the most calls about potholes toward the end of the winter season. But, because of the repeated snowstorms that has have pounded the region, pothole complaints have come in sooner than expected.
“There’s certain stretches of roads where you tend to get a lot of them,” he said. “Those areas are just a lot worse than normal this year.”
With two more weeks of winter left before the spring solstice—and the possibility of more snow beyond that—McBride warns drivers to slow down and be on the lookout for potholes to avoid damage to their vehicles.
“Obey the speed limit,” he said. “Keep your speeds down because it will give you more time to react if there is a pothole in front of you.”
To report potholes call the NYS Pothole hotline at 1-800-POTHOLE.