Call 1-800-POTHOLE to report craters; UPDATE: Paving spotted on 117 near Petersville

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Update Wed. May 11: Paving action on 117 near Petersville Road, by the Mt. Kisco County Club
May 12, 2011
by Christine Yeres

The consensus is that New Castle’s highways have never looked – or felt – so bad.  “It’s like riding in a buckboard,” said Bob Castelli on a trip through New Castle last week in an SUV with good suspension. “To be fair,” explained Castelli, New Castle’s State Assemblyman, “only recently have the plants that produce the hot asphalt reopened after the winter.”

The cold pack asphalt used for temporary fixes this winter seems to have had all the sticking power of chocolate cake; the heavy rains just washed it away.

And the first April batch of the hot stuff available for Northern Westchester highways and byways has gone mainly to repair the Taconic State Parkway, a primary roadway. This month, however, state department of transportation (DOT) workers will turn their attention to the secondary state roadways: Routes 100, 117, 120 and 133.  But none of them is slated for a complete makeover – only permanent pothole repairs, an oxymoron if there ever was one.

Here’s how pothole complaints result in pothole repairs

When you call 1-800-POTHOLE, you will reach an answering machine. Don’t hang up and seek a real person. A real person doesn’t appear until later in the process, but this is the beginning of a process that does work. The machine will ask for your name, phone number and the location of the pothole.

Leave a message with the best possible description of where the pothole is that you are calling to report; use green highway mile-markers, an intersection or a street address. For example: “There is a pothole immediately in front of my house that is threatening to swallow my SUV. My address is [fill in the blank].”

A human DOT dispatcher will review your message to determine in which DOT territory your pothole is located. Since all of New Castle’s state roads except the Saw Mill River Parkway fall within the Millwood DOT’s territory – the Taconic, Routes 100, 117, 120 and 133 – the dispatcher faxes the report of your pothole to the Millwood facility located on Route 100 across from an entrance to the Taconic Parkway.

Next step: Your complaint gets worked into the schedule

Interestingly, there is no master schedule for resurfacing the state routes despite the severe and consistent damage they have suffered this winter. That’s not the way it works. It really is a case of “the squeaky wheel – that would be residents calling – does get the grease.” Once your problem pothole is reported and dispatched to the appropriate territory, it will get worked into the weekly schedule. 

But it has to be worked in among several other jobs for which the same crews are responsible.  For example, in the month of April, Millwood DOT workers cleaned 258 drainage grates, filled 62 bags with litter and used 160 tons of hot asphalt to repair potholes mainly on the Taconic Parkway. So if you called in your complaint in April, chances are your pothole has not been filled yet.

Pavement repairs do take precedence over drainage problems. But heavy rains make pavement repair impossible. But that’s when the DOT crews leap into action to clean out blocked drains that can make roadways impassable. No rest for the weary in this department.


No money in state budget for complete resurfacing


“We know the roads are in really rough shape,” conceded Pete Teliska, Regional Transportation Maintenance Engineer for DOT Region 8, headquartered in Poughkeepsie. And worse yet, not even the worst of New Castle’s roadways – Route 117 seems to hold that distinction right now – is slated for complete resurfacing. Teliska would love to be able mill or grind away the top l.5 inches of current roadway on some whole sections of Route 117 and fill them with 1.5 inches of new asphalt. But currently, funding from the state permits only permanent pothole repair.


Residents couldn’t help but notice that the potholes this spring seem grouped along the centerline of the roadway as well as exactly where the passenger-side wheels of vehicles will hit every one of them, which has resulted in dangerous maneuverings by vehicles dodging wheel damage. “Some of our roads were originally concrete,” Teliska explained, “and the center is where the two concrete slabs abutted.”  Once the top surface of asphalt cracks, water and ice do their destructive two-step – a seep and a freeze, then a seep and a freeze, ad infinitum throughout the winter. Then the center seam, as well as the sides of the roadway where the concrete ended and asphalt was subsequently used to extend the roadbed, deteriorate dramatically.


After the Millwood DOT office receives the report of a pothole in its territory, it sends out crew workers to eyeball the roadways that are on their beat.  “DOT crews are out there all the time trying to do everything they can, evaluating the condition of the roadways, getting equipment to all the places it needs to be,” stressed Teliska.  “Specialized road repair equipment has to be shared across nine residencies in seven counties, so repair schedules depend also on when equipment is scheduled to come in.”


On timecards, workers record the type of work they have done each day, whether pothole repairs were temporary or permanent, where they were located and how much asphalt was used.


“Now that much of the Taconic is patched,” said Teliska encouragingly, “they’ll be branching out and hitting the worst spots on 117, at least filling the potholes.  Maybe by the end of June or July we’ll have the funding in place to do more ‘mill and fill’ jobs.”  But no one expects any of the major roadways to get an overhaul.



When asked about complaints from residents reporting frustration with the repair system, Teliska responded: “All I’ve dealt with today are letters from public officials and their concerns. We might sometimes sound defensive to residents, but we’re disappointed in our pavement.  We’re frustrated, too.  The State of New York is having financial difficulties. We don’t have the funding we would like.  Our employees are very proud of the roads and right now they’re not as good as they would like them to be.  They understand why that is – less staff, less funding to do the work – but it’s a disappointment to them.  And they’re working to make them the best they can with what they have.”

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The Millwood Sub-residency on Route 100.

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