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March 05, 2014

Holy Moly, The Roads Are A Wreck



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James J Mackin. (click for larger version)
One Long Islander joked a pothole near his house is the size of the Grand Canyon. In fact, he said, "I think I saw tourists taking a donkey ride to the bottom."

Another motorist reported seeing signs on the LIE warning drivers to expect delays due to potholes on the Grand Central Parkway. "I never saw that before," the veteran city driver said.

Still a third complained that she was pulled over in East Hampton for suspected drunken driving. "I was swerving to avoid potholes," she informed.

This winter has been marked by two topics of conversation -- the harsh weather, with its unprecedented (for the last two decades at least) precipitation, and what Old Man Winter's miserable ministrations wrought, a plethora of potholes.

No sooner does the snow, slush and ice abate than a new pain in the asphalt arises. Washboard bumps, crevices, cracks, and craters dot area roadways, making daily travel a trial.

"I got a flat tire on the way to Albany this week," Assemblyman Fred Thiele disclosed on Friday. "The roads are horrible everywhere."

Motorists on the South Fork are actually fortunate, if they can hang on until spring. Before the winter trashed roads across the state, a plan to pave State Route 27 from the County Road 39 merge in Southampton all the way to Montauk was already in place. That means the South Fork won't have to jockey for position with other communities looking to fix newly-trashed thoroughfares. Thiele reported receiving verbal assurances from the state DOT that the big repaving project is still a go. Thiele said he feels confident State Route 24, which comprises a bumpy ride from Hampton Bays to Riverhead, is also in line for paving help.

In the meantime, state and town crews are patching as much and as quickly as they can. East Hampton Town Highway Superintendent Steve Lynch said he had guys out on the weekend last month filling potholes on town roads. They use a patch material called "black gold," that he admitted is temporary. Once the weather warms up, he said, "We're going to be doing quite a bit of repaving." His small crew of "really good guys who do a good job" is making a list of target areas. The public has been "very helpful" when it comes to alerting the department to potholes that need work.

Lynch, in turn, must alert counterparts in other jurisdictions about wrecked roads in East Hampton. Springs Fireplace Road, for example, is Suffolk County's responsibility. Drivers who use it are well aware that, until late last week, sections of Fireplace resembled the surface of the moon. Lynch said he spoke to county highway officials and was pleased with their rapid response. County workers are slated to come out next month to mill sections of asphalt at the top of the road near Floyd Street and near the town recycling center and repave them.

As long as this winter's freeze/thaw cycles continue new potholes will appear and old ones will get bigger. When snow melts, water seeps through pavement, down from the roadway or up from under the asphalt. If temperatures dip, the water freezes, expands and creates cracks or holes – holes that, even patched, will reopen.

State crews were out on Montauk Highway last weekend, but Thiele likened some patch efforts to "putting a Band-Aid on a gunshot wound." Overall, he said, road crews "have to do the best they can until the weather is warmer."

kmerrill@indyeastend.com

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