By KATIE HOOS
Melting snow and ice in the wake of recent mild weather are revealing roadways pockmarked with crater-like potholes, leaving frustrated motorists to navigate the obstacle course or risk serious damage to their vehicles.
Potholes, though anticipated as a perennial winter occurrence in the Northeast, are seemingly worse this year after the harsh winter’s frequent plowing and salting have taken a toll on the roadways.
“I think it’s horrendous,” Sue Bloom of Rye City said, noting that Boston Post Road in Rye is the worst she’s seen in the area. “I have a little [Volkswagen] Beetle and I’m weaving in and out of the road to avoid [potholes].”
Potholes are created when water seeps underneath the pavement and freezes from cold temperatures, causing the pavement to expand and crack. Once temperatures rise and the frozen water melts, the pressure from vehicles traveling over the cracks causes the fragile pavement to cave in, creating a pothole.
In addition to deteriorating the roadways, potholes can do serious damage to automobiles that drive over them.
Javier Salgado, manager of Mavis Discount Tire in Mamaroneck, said damages can range from blown out or punctured tires, bent or cracked wheel rims, steering system misalignment, damaged or broken suspension, wear to shocks and struts and damage to the car’s undercarriage.
Depending on how deep a pothole was and how fast a car was traveling, Salgado said damages could be minor or severe, with a quick tire change costing around $75, while more serious damage could skyrocket into the thousands.
“It all just depends on the car and the damage,” Salgado said. “If you have a Range Rover with nice tires and expensive rims, it’s going to cost you more.”
Salgado said his shop typically sees most pothole-related damage in the winter months and this winter has been especially busy due to the amount of potholes in the area.
“Every day people come in complaining about potholes,” he said, adding that 40 cars came into his Mavis shop the Saturday following the Feb. 13 Nor’easter after hitting a large pothole on Interstate 95 near exit 18. “It was crazy busy.”
Rocco Cacciola, owner of Rocco’s Service Center in Tuckahoe, said business has been booming this year, more so than in previous years, because of the numerous potholes.
“I’ve already seen maybe 20 to 50 cars,” Cacciola said, adding the most common damage is a blown-out tire or bent wheel rims.
Even if the damage isn’t immediately visible after hitting a pothole, Cacciola said it’s best to bring the car into a repair shop to have it checked out.
“There could be damage in the front that you can’t see and it could fall apart when you’re driving later on,” he said.
Ian Umland from Naugatuck, Conn., damaged his car’s alignment after hitting two potholes on Westchester Avenue.
“It’s brutal out there,” Umland said. “I could tell right away something needed to be fixed because my car started vibrating and shaking after.”
According to a 2013 study by TRIP, a non-profit national research group that studies highway transportation, nearly 51 percent of roads in New York City and it’s surrounding suburbs are in poor condition and provide a rough ride, ranking the region as the sixth worst in the nation. The study cites that freeze-thaw cycles found in the nation’s northern and Midwestern states often accelerate road deterioration, thus explaining why this year’s wild weather pattern of temperatures flip-flopping between warm and below freezing acts as a perfect storm for producing tire-destroying potholes.
The 2013 TRIP study estimates that pothole-ridden roads and roads that are in rough conditions cost each driver in the U.S. an average of $377 per year in vehicle repairs. Motorists in the New York City metro area pay $673 annually in additional vehicle repair due to poor road conditions.
Whether or not their cars are damaged, many motorists are fed up with the conditions of the roadways and are calling on their local DPW crews to fix the potholes.
Carmel resident Lisa Stofko said even if DPW crews need to be paid overtime, they should prioritize patching the roadways.
“I think if you’re going to put salt down in the winter, you need to spend the time in the spring to fix it,” she said. “What else can they do? It needs to be fixed.”
With a busy season of snowplowing coming to a close, municipal DPW crews are now focusing on improving road conditions and filling potholes.
New Rochelle Public Works Commissioner Alex Tergis said the city’s crews are already out patching the most severe potholes and are laying hot asphalt—a more permanent technique than the cold asphalt municipal crews typically use in winter months—to repair the roadways. The city also issued a bid for services to repair potholes in the coming months.
“This year has been much worse than the previous two years, and that’s to be expected because the winter was much harsher,” Tergis said.