By Steve Mosco
Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the city Department of Transportation unveiled a new machine in Flushing intended to make the city’s pesky pothole problem less prevalent this spring.
Joined by DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan on 34th Road between Union and Leavitt streets, Bloomberg launched the start of road-paving season with a demonstration of the Python — a new machine currently being tested — which is designed to fill potholes with fewer crew members and only block one lane of traffic when making road repairs.
Bloomberg said the new technology will help keep workers safe, while causing less congestion on city roads.
“Keeping our streets in good condition is essential to our economy and to our quality of life, and that’s why we are always looking for ways to do the job more efficiently,” Bloomberg said. “We’re debuting new technology to repair city streets faster while closing less lanes to traffic.”
Last year was especially hard on city roads, since extreme winter weather required DOT crews to fill a record 418,000 potholes citywide. The mild temperatures of the past few months have enabled city crews to get a jump on street repairs, as the DOT has already filled 164,000 potholes and resurfaced 650 lane miles across the city so far this fiscal year.
According to Sadik-Khan, the early start on road paving season has given the DOT the opportunity to test new technologies aimed at streamlining road repairs and creating more environmentally friendly techniques.
“While the DOT crews work to repair streets across the city, we’re testing new technology that can help achieve smoother streets in faster, more efficient ways,” she said. “By applying innovative techniques to street repairs, we are stepping up our efforts to make sure our roadways continue to be in a state of good repair.”
The city is currently renting the Python for up to three months at a cost of $2,500 per month. After the initial testing phase, the city will assess the benefits of the machine and the DOT will decide whether or not to move forward with the technology.
The Python pothole filling machine uses a telescoping arm to place and compact the material used for pothole repairs. It is operated by a single crew member and allows for work to be completed from inside the vehicle. The previous technique required at least five crew members all working outside their vehicles, usually blocking numerous lanes of traffic.
Additionally, the Python carries its own hot-asphalt repairs, eliminating the need for a trailer with materials and other construction equipment. Bloomberg said workers will be trained and that learning to work with the new machines will take time.
“Human hands and eyes can do some work a lot better than machines,” said Bloomberg, referring to the automated Python. “But you have to decide if you want to shut roads down, get all the guys in the road with their shovels and block traffic.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.