If there is one prevailing maintenance concern for any city,
county or state transportation authority it’s the pothole. New York City
is no different. In fact, potholes were so bad in “The Big Apple”
that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani declared a comprehensive citywide Pothole Repair
Blitz in December 2000.
The New York City Department of Transportation responded by
repairing more than 70,000 potholes since the declaration. Recent polls have indicated that the New York metropolitan area now ranks 16th in
potholes/related-car-repair-costs out of the 50 largest metropolitan areas.
Though there is a lot of progress to be made, this is a valiant effort
considering New York’s vast transit system, huge traffic numbers and 14.4
The New York City DOT receives most of the credit for this
pothole pro-gress, but another agency’s efforts that should not be
overlooked is Metropolitan Transportation Authority Bridges & Tunnels.
Bridges & Tunnels is a constituent agency of the Metropolitan
Transportation Authority (MTA), which also manages the New York City Transit
Authority, the commuter railroads (MetroNorth and Long Island Railroad) and all
of the major toll bridges and tunnels within the city.
It is MTA’s Bridges & Tunnels that deserves
considerable credit for maintaining and reducing the pothole concerns for some
of the most heavily traveled areas of New York City. MTA’s seven bridges
and two tunnels carry nearly 300 million vehicles annually, which is more than
any bridge and tunnel authority in the nation. The bridges include the
Triborough, Throgs Neck, Verrazano-Narrows, Bronx-Whitestone, Henry Hudson,
Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial and the Cross Bay Veterans. The two tunnels
overseen by MTA are the Brooklyn-Battery and the Queens Midtown. As with any
other road surface, bridges and tunnels suffer from the same pothole plague and
formation process. First there is an infiltration of water under the road
surface, followed by subsequent freeze/thaw cycles and constant
traffic—and voila, the birth of a pothole. But what makes the pothole
problem different with bridges and tunnels is the unique maintenance challenge
these structures present.
No other way
With other metropolitan side streets and thoroughfares,
there are alternatives. If one particular street is in need of major pothole
repair, there are usually other streets in which traffic can be detoured.
Though an annoyance to the traveler, the option is at least feasible. But in
the case of bridges and tunnels, the demands are much greater. Completed in
July 1936, the Triborough Bridge has seen more than 2.8 billion vehicles cross
its 65-year-old surface. Last year alone, more than 64 million vehicles crossed
the Triborough, and it currently boasts an average daily traffic of 170,000
vehicles. When major potholes crop up, there is no simple detour for the
Triborough Bridge, and the 170,000 people driving across it each day would not
readily accept lane closings and/or major delays to repair potholes. Thus, MTA
Bridges & Tunnels has implemented a quick yet effective method of pothole
repair for its most demanding structures—spray injection pothole
Spray injection pothole patching in-volves a four-step
process. First, using a high-volume blower, the pothole is cleaned, removing
rocks, debris and moisture. Next, a tack coat of hot emulsion is applied to the
area in need of repair. Third, a mixture of aggregate and hot emulsion is
dropped into the hole to fill the depression. Lastly, a top layer of dry
aggregate is applied and traffic can flow immediately. Though one of the
fastest and cheapest pothole repair methods available, style="mso-spacerun: yes"> a study conducted by the Strategic
Highway Research Program in 1992 found it to be one of the most effective and
long-lasting techniques as well. In fact, some state DOT research councils have
found spray injection pothole patches to last up to five years—or three
to five times longer than traditional methods.
MTA Bridges & Tunnels currently has two Rosco RA-300
spray injection pothole patching trucks dedicated to maintaining their seven
bridges, which includes two of their most demanding structures—the
Verrazano-Narrows and Triborough Bridges.
Named after Giovanni de Verrazano, who, in 1524, was the
first European explorer to set sail into New York Harbor, the Verrazano-Narrows
Bridge spans from the historic Fort Hamilton in Brooklyn to Fort Wadsworth in
Staten Island. When it opened in 1964, the Verrazano was the world’s
longest suspension span and today is only surpassed by the Humber Bridge in
England. Its large 693-ft-high towers are 15?8 in. farther apart at their
tops than at their bases because the 4,260 ft distance between them makes it
necessary to compensate for the Earth’s curvature. Whereas the Triborough’s main challenge involves traffic, the Verrazano requires a mobile pothole solution that can easily cover its incredible distance.
The patch works
According to Patrick Parisi, director of fleet operations
for MTA Bridges & Tunnels, the quick and effective characteristics of spray
injection pothole patching have proven valuable.
“Small holes and large cracks that previously may not
have been repaired due to the time consuming setup for crews are now being
addressed due to the maneuverability of the spray patcher truck,” he
Additionally, the safety aspects of spray injection pothole
repair have been attractive to MTA. “Our primary concern is the safety of
our employees and travelers,” said Parisi. “Spray patcher trucks
provide us with a safe method to address potholes in high traffic, safety
sensitive areas. Our workers never leave the vehicles and their physical strain
is reduced because they don’t have to handle 60-lb bags of cold patch or
operate heavy vibrating tampers.”
Spray patcher technology also allows MTA to better achieve
their goal of minimizing traffic delays caused by maintenance.
“The spray patching crew consists of one person to
operate the patcher truck and another to drive an impact attenuator
truck,” said Bill McCann, MTA maintenance superintendent for the
Verrazano Bridge. “With the quick repair process and minimal setup, the
work zone quickly moves from pothole to pothole. There’s no need to set
up and break down long cone lines.”
Marc Mende, MTA senior bridge and tunnel maintainer,
appreciates the shelter the patcher truck cab provides from the elements.
“In the winter, when potholes are at their worst,
we’ll patch about three to five days a week,” said Mende.
“With the freezing and thawing cycles, potholes grow and it’s not
unusual to repair more than 100 potholes in a shift. And on those cold days
when it’s 18? out and the wind is blowing at 30 miles per hour, the
safe and controlled environment of the patcher truck makes the operator more