Long Island motorists soon could have something to applaud: $157 million in funding from the state for repaving and fixing potholes.
“Everybody is complaining about potholes. Nobody has hit more potholes in the state of New York than I have because I’ve traveled 372,000 miles not by plane, all on the road,” Gov. Kathy Hochul told community leaders and elected officials Tuesday at Kennedy Memorial Park in Hempstead.
“There’s even a bigger welcome when I am out on Long Island, because they’re enormous,” she added.
The funding follows Hochul’s previous $1 billion commitment to attack potholes across the state, and sets Long Island on the path toward 480 restored lane miles along the region's most heavily traveled highways. The money will come from the state’s five-year, $32.8 billion capital plan.
On the Long Island Expressway, which has become notorious for its bumpy rides, $80.1 million will be used to restore 287 lane miles, where an average of 152,000 vehicles travel daily. Mostly taking place overnight, the resurfacing repairs will stretch from the Nassau/Suffolk border to State Route 112 at Exit 64. This includes all three main travel lanes, shoulders and on and off ramps.
By the end of the year, a $23.9 million pavement renewal project on the Southern State Parkway between Exit 20 (Grand Avenue/Baldwin Road) and State Route 110 at the Nassau/Suffolk border will be nearly complete. Nearly 200,000 drivers use the Southern State daily.
Also on the Southern State, an additional 11 lane miles will be repaved between State Route 231 and the Sagtikos State Parkway in the towns of Babylon and Islip.
Some projects already are in the works, including repavement of 23 lane miles on the Meadowbrook Parkway from Merrick Road south to Ocean Parkway, which is expected to be completed as soon as Memorial Day. That project is costing $5.6 million.
Long Island elected officials and labor leaders who previously voiced concerns about the poor condition of the area’s busiest highways welcomed the investment.
Calling herself the “pothole princess,” Assemb. Taylor Darling (D-Hempstead) said that while previously asking the governor for more funds, she was simultaneously shelling out $600 to repair a tire after hitting a pothole.
“Our governor committed to me that we would undertake massive road repairs even if we would have to fill potholes ourselves,” Darling told the crowd in Hempstead.
“I am so committed to this cause.”
Calling it a “quality of life issue,” Hochul said she has first-hand experience navigating potholes on Long Island.
"People have enough frustration in life," she said. They don’t need to be sitting in Firestone stations paying $500, $600 to deal with something the government has a responsibility to do, and that’s to make sure that our roads are safe and can carry the public without injury."
Marc Herbst, executive director of the Long Island Contractors’ Association, an industry trade group that represents more than 160 organizations in the construction industry, called Hochul's announcement good news because "the roads are in deplorable condition."
Multiple factors contribute to decaying roads, including wear and tear, weather and a lack of scheduled maintenance. Neglected roads create unsafe conditions that may lead to accidents and cause traffic delays, while increasing maintenance costs for car owners.
Herbst noted that many roads on Long Island have exceeded their life cycle of 12 years without major repairs.
“The repaving schedule is beyond what it should be. The LIE is an example: It’s about 18 years in some places,” Herbst said.
Chris Beckhans, president of Long Island ABATE-Americans Bikers Awareness, Training & Education, said the roads are the worst he’s seen in 35 years of motorcycle riding.
“The major thoroughfares are in sad shape. Patches have been made, but it doesn’t fix them, and unfortunately with cold and freezing cycles, you end up with giant craters,” Beckhans said.
“It’s definitely way overdue. Thankfully this investment is coming because it’s hideous. To ride a motorcycle on Long Island is taking your life in your hands. It’s unbelievable how they were let to get this way."
Mary Purdie, of Hempstead, founder of "Senior Lives Matter, Let's Talk About It," said the road conditions are unacceptable, and not just for drivers.
"The roads in Hempstead and on some of the highways are absolutely terrible," she said. "And for some of those seniors who have wheelchairs, how are they expected to navigate them? It's very scary."
Additional road resurfacing projects totaling nearly 30 lane miles will begin this year and possibly be completed by the end of 2023. They include:
-State Route 114 between Stephen Hands Path and the Shelter Island South Ferry terminal in the Village of Sag Harbor, Village of North Haven, and Town of East Hampton;
-State Route 109 between the Nassau/Suffolk border and State Route 27A in the Town of Babylon;
-State Route 25A between Lawrence Road and State Route 25 in the Town of Smithtown;
-State Route 111 between Suffolk Avenue and the LIE in the Town of Islip;
-Sunrise Highway North Service Road between Udall Road and Manor Road in the Town of Islip;
-Sunrise Highway South Service Road between Udall Road and Malts Avenue in the Town of Islip.
-Herbst said these contracts will be more than just quick fixes.
“For repairing the roads now, we should be in good shape for the next decade,” he said.
Waylyn Hobbs Jr., mayor of the Village of Hempstead, expects direct funding from the state to make repairs in his village.
“I am hoping that as the governor sets aside money for infrastructure and road repair that she does like President [Joe] Biden did in making sure that funding goes directly to the villages and is not funneled through the town and county,” he said.