ClaimStat Alert – Pothole City: A Data-Driven Look at NYC Roadways

July 30, 2015

Pothole City: A Data-Driven Look at NYC Roadways

Potholes have been a persistent presence in New York City since the days of the horse and buggy, causing harm to people and property and contributing to “frayed temperatures and rising blood pressure” throughout the five boroughs, as one commenter put it more than fifty years ago.

Just this month, the transportation research group TRIP found that over 80 percent of the major roads and highways in the New York City and Newark metropolitan areas were in poor or mediocre condition—the seventh worst ranking in the nation among cities with greater than 500,000 residents. This imposes nearly $800 in annual additional maintenance costs on car owners—what amounts to “a hidden pothole tax.”

This ClaimStat Alert, from Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, examines “defective roadway” claims against the City of New York from Fiscal Years (FY) 2010 – 2015. Defective roadway claims fall into two categories—property damage (so-called “pothole” claims, generally affecting automobiles) and personal injury (mainly “trip and fall” claims on City roads).

  • There were 12,286 property damage defective roadway claims (hereafter “pothole claims”) from FY 2010 – FY 2015. During the same period, 1,549 claims were settled at a cost of nearly $1.5 million.
  • There were 5,913 personal injury defective roadway claims from FY 2010 – 2015. During the same period, 2,681 claims were settled at a cost of $136.3 million.
  • When taken together, the cost of both personal injury and property damage defective roadway claims between FY 2010 – 2015 was nearly $138 million—an average of $27.6 million annually.
  • Most recently, there were 2,045 pothole claims filed in FY 2015 (ending June 30, 2015), nearly double the number of claims filed in FY 2013 (1,075) but significantly fewer than FY 2014, which witnessed a historical high with 2,955 claims filed amid one of the toughest winters on record with 57.4 inches of snow.
  • The roads with the greatest number of pothole claims include the Belt Parkway, the Grand Central Parkway and the FDR Drive, while the roads with the most personal injury cases include Broadway, Second, and Third Avenues in Manhattan.
  • While many variables contribute to potholes – from road repaving and maintenance schedules to the general age of the City’s infrastructure – the data shows that heavy snowfalls correlate with a higher volume of pothole claims.