Tuesday, November 26, 2013

NYC-built roads in Catskills imperil environment, health, safety of residents & NYC water

A great article in the Woodstock Times, about how New York City's Department of Environmental Preservation, which manages upstate reservoirs, is skimping on road building techniques so as to imperil not only the environment in the Catskills, and the health and safety of its residents, but also the safety of the very New York City water supply it's charged with protecting. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll mention that the author of the article, Mel Sadownick, is my brother in law, but the problem he describes is very real, and very disturbing, and I agree with the article 100%:

New reservoir roads create peril to our water, air quality, drivers, vehicles

by on • 6:30 am

Ashokan Reservoir (photo by Dion Ogust)
Ashokan Reservoir (photo by Dion Ogust)

One might ask what would be the thread that ties the above, diverse issues, together. The answer to that question came knocking on my door, in the form of a dust cloud, during the weekend of September 8, 2013.

My house is next to Route 28A, the road that winds around the Ashokan Reservoir. That weekend, the dust on 28A was so intense that it made me wonder if I had been transported, in time and space, to the dust bowl of Oklahoma, in the 1930s. The dust was all over the road, in the air, in my car, in my house, and in my lungs.

I assumed that the project to repave 28A was somewhere in mid-construction. I called to ask when the trucks were going to come, to finally lay down the pavement. I quickly learned that the road was owned by the New York City DEP, and that they were the ones, to call and to ask.

A very nice and very forthcoming gentleman, the man in charge of the road project, took my call and answered my question. His answer shocked me. The answer was “never.” They were done. This was the final layer.

Over a period of a few phone calls, he explained that this was a road that was called a “tar and chip” road, and that it was the most economical (least expensive) way to keep DEP’s roads up.

I researched “tar and chip roads” on the internet and learned that the “chip” in this road is not made from natural stone, but is made with Bitumen (more about Bitumen later). I learned about the impact of this kind of road on cars, drivers, waterways, drinking water, and air quality.

I learned that “tar and chip” roads are most commonly used by economically strained (poor) rural counties, on their less traveled, rural roads.

Some of the drawbacks of this kind of road:

“Can cause safety and environment problems such as cracked windshields, loss of control, and crashes (especially for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and small trucks);” That “the rough surface causes a notable increase in vibration and rolling resistance for cars and bicyclists, and increased wear on all types of tires;” and that “There are incidents of loose chips hitting the underside of your car, debris from passing trucks hitting the sides of your car and striking your windshield.”
The “tar and chip” road may appear to be economical way to build a road, but it creates hazards for drivers, cars, trucks and bicyclists.

However, the environmental impact of building such a road, particularly near reservoir waters, is more profound..........

Complete article

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