Potholes ahead

pothole art

Think of them as spontaneous transit art.

The condition of roads in the Albany area costs an average driver $1,145 a year, according to a research group called TRIP. The think tank came to that conclusion as part of an overall survey of New York State's surface transportation system.

Here's how TRIP breaks down the cost of the condition of the Capital Region's roads:

  • Driving on roads in need of repair costs each motorist in the Albany region $315 annually in extra vehicle operating costs. These costs include accelerated vehicle depreciation, additional repair costs and increased fuel consumption and tire wear.
  • Traffic congestion in Albany costs approximately $401 per driver in lost time and wasted fuel.
  • Traffic crashes in Albany in which roadway characteristics were likely a contributing factor cost approximately $429 per driver annually, including medical costs, lost economic and household productivity, property damage and travel delays.

And the problems:

  • Almost half of Albany's roads are in "poor or mediocre" condition.
  • Twenty-seven percent of bridges in the Albany area are structurally deficient or functionally obsolete.
  • The average Albany driver loses 19 hours per year due to traffic congestion according to the Texas Transportation Institute's (TTI) 2009 Annual Urban Mobility Report.

TRIP's solution? Yep, money (surprise). But the org says almost half of the money in the New York State Highway and Bridge Dedicated Trust Fund currently goes toward paying off debt. And the state is projected to have a $87 billion shortfall in funding for road maintenance over the next two decades.


The solution isn't just about money. Potential solutions policy makers fail to consider on a regular basis: Directing highway and road funds to support more cost effective means of transportation, putting the breaks on sprawl, and leaving the car at home.

I'd believe it. I've been through more flat tires since moving here six years ago than the prior 15.

A) we don't have congestion in Albany and increasing capacity on our roadways will just lead to more Clifton-park like development a/k/a sprawl! Investment needs to go into transit and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. For years these modes have received a mere 1% of transportation funds.

B) Safety - Anyone notice that the report mentions motorist fatalities but not bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities? If they dug up some data on Central Ave the ped injuries and fatalities would blow your mind.

B) The regional transportation agency rates the pavement conditions every year and more than half the roads are in good condition, especially those that serve as major commuting routes. The roads in the worst condition are in the low-income, urban neighborhoods. THese are not roads that suburbanites are tramping in on every day.

C) The highway trust fund is broke and there is no new transportation bill. We have developed and built beyond what we can maintain. There are a few choices - raise the gas tax, implement a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax, raise tolls even more, etc. People don't want to pay for the level of service they feel entitled to.

D) TRIP is based in DC. The researchers who developed this report most likely never stepped a foot into our region or drove a mile on our roadways. They based their figures on averages which they derived from Federal Highway Administration data. I'm not buying any of it. But I may be biased. I'm a transportation planner.

From someone who lives in Center Square, I think the roads in and around the Capitol are horrible! State Street, running from Elda's on Lark down past the Plaza, is an absolute mess.

I also commute to work and think that any additional taxes on gas, mileage (worst idea imagineable), and tolls would mean death to Upstate New York and businesses here.

Can we please get a subway system in Albany?!?!

What I don't get is all the brick roads around this area like the ones on Lark Street. They deteriorate much faster then normal pavement, cause unnecessary tire wear, cost more to repair, and are a nightmare in the winter.

Heard ya Jen!

To get conspirital (if I may), this is on the first page of TRIP's survey:

"Founded in 1971, TRIP ® of Washington, DC, is a nonprofit organization that researches, evaluates and distributes
economic and technical data on highway transportation issues. TRIP is sponsored by insurance companies,
equipment manufacturers, distributors and suppliers; businesses involved in highway and transit engineering and
construction; labor unions; and organizations concerned with an efficient and safe highway transportation"

Based on the above, it seems pouring money into road maintenance and increased capacity will mostly benefit the organizations that fund TRIP.

Yes, a smoother road and faster ride to work because of more lanes will feel good up front, but the increased capacity will quickly fill and those roads will need more maintenance.

To refer back to part A of Jen's breakdown, the real way to address these problems is to develop more pedestrian and public options of transport. The less cars on the road, the less Albany has to worry about "congestion" and spending money on road maintenance.

@ SP - The brick roads on Lark Street are intended to slow drivers down and be somewhat nostalgic, seeing that all roads in Center Square (i.e. Jay St.) used to be cobblestone at one time or another.

@ Jorge - There is real congestion in Albany and although I agree the city needs to develop realistic options to take cars of the road, the overwhelming number of people who work in Albany are commuters who travel from varying distances well outside of the city.

@ Jen - Does the ped. injuries and fatalities data on Central Ave. take into consideration the number of people on that street that walk in the middle of the road or try to cross the street despite oncoming traffic?

I like the photo of the pot hole with the gold frame around it. While it does show the deterioration of the blacktop, it also shows something very good. Beneath the blacktop is Belgian paving blocks. Few American cities are so fortunate as to have them. Albany has this excellent solid granite stone base under many of our streets. If it were not for this 19th century street construction system which blesses us, our pot holes would be far worse.

For the correct nominclature, Albany streets have not been cobblestone since the 18th century (1700s). Cobblestone is made of round stones, called "cobbles", which often arrived as ballast in the bottom of ships. Central New York has some lovely historic homes made from them.

Most of what people in Albany mistakenly call "cobblestone" is not cobblestone. It is actually "Belgian paving block." These were granite cut into standard-sized, smooth-sided blocks. As you can imagine, they were a major improvement over the uncut, natural stones which were round and very slippery to horses and to wagon wheels. Pedestrians were also much less likely to twist their ankles on Belgian paving blocks than on cobble stones.

Some of historic Albany streets were red or yellow brick. Some of these surfaces still remain in the area between Albany High School and Central Avenue and on the road from Delaware Avenue down into the Normanskill Creek.

Yes, we all like to drive on smooth roads, but these historic paving materials (and the trolley rails which appear in potholes in the Spring), should give us pride and insight into what our city has been through over the last three centuries.

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