State Sen. Leonard Stavisky complained as early as 1988 about poor road conditions on a stretch of the northbound Van Wyck Expressway where it meets the Whitestone Expressway. Twenty-eight years later and things haven’t changed. The only way to merge into the Van Wyck is to sway side to side, avoiding the immense potholes that have overtaken over the roads. Nothing in life is worse than hitting potholes left and right, only to be stuck in the same spot in traffic for an eternity, aka business-as-usual on the Van Wyck. The infamous Van Wyck is the most convenient access route to thousands of residents in Queens, including the Richmond Hill Community. With all of the problems surrounding this general area, what positive outcome can come out of the one thing we depend on the most, which is currently a disaster?
We often see cars with no bumpers or damaged rims and we think to ourselves, what kind of accident could they have been in? However, we fail to realize that such damages to our cars can be caused by simple, but "lethal," holes in our roads. If your vehicle hits a deep cavity in the road, a steering system misalignment to a full-on tire puncture or bent rim may follow. The thing is, pothole damage is an everyday road hazard and the worst part of it is that you don’t realize until the damage has already been done. I have had to get my wheels patched three times within the last sixty days just from local driving conditions.
Everyday traffic has been crippled for a generation because of the desire to constantly ‘update’ and ‘renew’ our highway systems. Since August of 2009, the Van Wyck has been going through many changes that causes the travel time to double, but the quality of the road remains the same: shoddy. I say, if you’re going to take this long to do whatever voodoo you think will make some sort of longterm positive result, might as well be efficient and fix the roads while you’re at it. I’m tired of having to patch my tires over and over again.
“Those pot holes gave my brand new car a flat tire. Having a flat tire is bad, but having a flat tire in the middle of the highway is a lot worse. I had to drive back home 10 miles per hour, causing traffic and risking damage...to the rims of my car,” says Karina Ovalles, who lives in the Richmond Hill area and also commutes to Queensborough Community College. After noticing a neighbor of mine, Andrew, driving extremely slow on the open road, I asked him a few questions about it. “Driving kills me, man. If it were possible to not drive to work, then I’d sell my car in a second, but because there’s no other form of transportation [to get] there, I have no choice. I tried to avoid damaging my first car by swerving away from a pothole, but instead I totaled it by ramming it into a parked car. They got to do something about it.” If the Van Wyck is taking six plus years to ‘be updated’, I can only image how long it’ll take to fix the actual road problems.
The Van Wyck is a central hub of transportation in Queens, and it can definitely make travel time more efficient due to numerous connections to other highways. But the center of the problem isn’t the renovations to make better access to additional highways, but the ‘minor’ everyday problems like potholes that no one talks about. Potholes are the definition of planned accidents and this has to be looked into.