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WCBS 880 Special Series: Your Future Commute - Looking To The Past

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - It's commuter crunch time, and not just because people are back from vacation.

This morning, we begin a week-long look at Your Future Commute. But to look ahead, we have to look back.

WCBS 880's Wayne Cabot On The Story


When you think of the 1950s, you think about Elvis Presley, President Dwight Eisenhower, and interstates.

"In this century, America has become a nation on wheels. We ride on wheels to work. We shop...," a narrator from the time could be heard saying.

Fast forward 60 years and the foundation is failing.

"Route 1... the oldest highway in the country," John Cichowski, "Road Warrior" for The Record, told WCBS 880's Wayne Cabot. "As they dig into the ground there, they find things that they didn't even know were there. Suddenly the cost of these projects sometimes double."

Dolling out the money, wherever he can find it, is Matt Holt, Chairman of the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, who Cabot caught up with off Route 78.

"A lot of these highways and bridges are at the end of their life cycles. How dangerous are some of these bridges and highways?" Cabot asked.

"Well, I wouldn't use the word 'dangerous,'" Holt said. "We have a tremendous number of functionally obsolete bridges at this point in time."

"So, the merges aren't good? It's a safety hazard?" asked Cabot.

"The reality of it is we're not going to build a lot more roads in the state of New Jersey," Holt said.

The same goes for most of the rest of the region. I-95 in Connecticut? Forget it. Long Island? Keep dreaming.

The best we can do is fix what we have. Dollars are short, the list of long, and time is not on our side.

WCBS 880's Wayne Cabot: Obsolete And Deficient


Where are the worst roads in our area? Not the worst traffic. That gets bad everywhere.

The most structurally deficient or functionally obsolete roads and bridges are where the first highways were built.

"Traveling along Merritt Parkway, one sees Connecticut at its best," the narrator of an old documentary could be heard saying.

So, there's a clue.

The worst roads are in Fairfield County.

106 bridges are structurally deficient. That's 13 percent of them.

At least five of those bridges cross the Merritt Parkway.

As for the gas tax paid to fund improvements, records show that Connecticut has siphoned off 60 percent of it to use for other programs since 2005.

The next worst county around here is Bergen County in New Jersey, where 12 percent of the bridges have structural issues.

Cabot rode with Cichowski through the construction on Route 3.

"We're in Bergen County right now, where over 40 percent of the bridges are either structurally deficient or obsolete. So, is there attention being paid to the fact that these bridges really are past their lifespans?" Cabot asked.

"I think so," answered Cichowski. "If I were Gov. Christie, every night when I went to bed, the worst thing that could possibly happen would be the kind of disaster in Minnesota."

Cichowski was referring to the I-35W bridge which collapsed, killing 13 people.

"No matter how much money he spends or how little money he spends, his administration is going to be blamed for that," Cichowski added. "I mean 287 about a year ago, if you recall, a lane of it during that terrible terrible storm disappeared into the river. Gosh, I never saw DOT act so fast in my life. Just imagine if that was much much worse or people had been driving there."

"Do you think we have any bridges around here that are in danger of absolute collapse?" Cabot asked.

"I think the word you ought to add to that would be imminent collapse, and the answer to that is probably no. The engineers say this can't happen," he said.

Without a doubt, the most critical project around here is the Tappan Zee Bridge, and Rockland County Executive Scott Vanderhoef knows it.

"It's a dinosaur and that's the issue," he said.

Tune in tomorrow when we'll follow projects, bottlenecks, and boondoggles.

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