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Letter to the Editor: Fixing Scarsdale Roads Should be a Key Priority

An important part of the Scarsdale Voters Choice Platform (VCP) is making infrastructure investments a key priority. The state of the Village-owned roads in Scarsdale is atrocious, and an important part of the VCP platform calls for an accelerated program to strategically repair Scarsdale’s roads.  Please Vote Row A Robert Berg on March 20th if fixing our roads is important to you!

In a Scarsdale Forum’s Municipal Services Committee traffic survey report released on January 18, 2018, the data of 706 respondents from all over Scarsdale show the challenges that Scarsdale residents have while walking, driving, and biking in Scarsdale.

 

Potholes in our roads was a significant theme in the comments by survey respondents.  These are just a few of the comments from the report’s Appendix V cited verbatim:

·       Lighting is very poor on Fox Meadow Road. There are cracked sidewalks and potholes from Crane to Wayside Lane. Then there are no sidewalks.

·       Lots of potholes on Post Road following road works, especially on the outer lanes nearer to the curb

·       Crossing with my children is very, very stressful.  Potholes are awful and the lack of sidewalks especially near the schools is ridiculous.

·       Potholes are especially hazardous at night for walkers.

·       The condition of the roads is atrocious. Many are unsafe for bicycles, pedestrians, dogs.

Any and all users of the roads are at risk because of the multitude of potholes, cracked pavement and eroding streets.

The sidewalks are awful.

Heathcote road sidewalk in particular is dangerous, and at times covered and obstructed by leaves and other yard waste.

·      

Crossing Popham at Chase is terrible and often dangerous. The traffic lights are not located to insure proper stopping prior to cross walks. The village seems to ignore repeated requests to remedy.

·       There are an enormous amount of potholes on the streets, it is very hard to drive anywhere without hitting them.

·       I have tripped NUMEROUS times and sprained my ankles because of potholes. 

·       Between the potholes and poorly paved streets in our area of Scarsdale (Secor Farms) and the lack of streetlights, walking a dog any time after dark (or before, for that matter) is treacherous.

·       The roads are so bad I had to get rid of my car, which had sport tires.  I "popped" the tires three times on potholes. 

·       My wife, while waking in the road{no sidewalks} broke six bones in her foot falling into a pothole.

·       The roadways themselves are in terrible disrepair throughout Scarsdale. I have lived here since 1960 and don't recall the roads being so riddled with potholes as now. As a frequent bicyclist I avoid Scarsdale roads as much as possible and bicycle up-county where repaving occurs more frequently.

·       Biking is a HUGe problem in Scarsdale because the road conditions are atrocious (potholes abound everywhere)

Scarsdale police blotters also often have examples of the poor condition of our roads. For example, the February 20th police blotter showed that four people blew their tires on a Heathcote Road pothole and that there was another pothole on Secor and Mamaroneck Road. The poor condition of our roads cost us time and money, and could lead to injury and far worse!

Repairing our roads would cost about $28 million. Scarsdale Village says it repaves each road on a 30-year cycle.  That means the Village repaves only about 2.6 miles of the 79 miles of Village-owned roads each year.  Our roads in Scarsdale are in a perpetual death circle.  We just keep falling further and further behind, and our roads get worse year after year.  This past year the Village actually repaved a couple of more miles of road than usual — how?  It used the proceeds from the tax foreclosure sale of a house in Edgewood to pay for the expanded repairs.  This was a one-off deal — not too many property owners in Scarsdale simply walk away from $1 million properties.  Much rarer than a blue moon!

Whenever I bring up the sorry state of our roads when I speak before the Village Board, I tell the Board it needs to issue municipal bonds to fund a strategic road repair campaign. I get cheers from the audience.  Yet, the Village Board refuses to do so on the misbegotten belief that fiscally responsible road repair must come from the operational budget and not be bonded.  

So how do the Scarsdale Mayor and Trustees respond to this sorry state of affairs? Well, for starters, they deny that we have a major road condition problem at all.  At a February 28, 2017 Village Board meeting, the former Scarsdale Mayor said that complaints about our roads are overblown; only "some" are in bad shape, and he rattled off a list of roads that were repaired last year.  What he failed to tell us is some of the newly-repaired roads, like Autenreith, were in horrendous shape for years -- really a dangerous embarrassment in a location right in the Village center.  The current Scarsdale Mayor and Trustees have not focused on fixing our roads at all.

And shockingly, no one in the Village has any real idea of the state of our roads?  Why is that?  Because the last time the Village conducted a thorough survey of the state of Scarsdale Village roads was TEN years ago.  How do we know that?  At that the February 28, 2017 Board meeting, I asked our Village Manager for a copy of the latest road condition survey report.  The next day he emailed it to me, and it is dated 2008!  

According to our officials, we've just got to put up with it, because we don't have the money to do more from our operational budget.

The solution to our very real road problem lies in the issuance of municipal bonds to fund an accelerated road repair program.  We don't need to go crazy on this program.  We don't need to repair all our roads in one year which is how some Scarsdale Citizens Non-Partisan Party supporters are misrepresenting the VCP position.  But we should start with a $4 million bond which would allow us to repair approximately 11.5 miles of road in one season.  Interest rates are historically low still, and the underwriting costs of a $4 million 10-year AAA-rated municipal bond are trivial.  Total cost of the debt service at current yields of 2.4% would be $454,677 per year.  That's less than one third of what the Village spent this past year on Village road repair.  (Former Mayor Mark stated at an February 28, 2017 Board meeting that the Village had spent $1,465,000 in fiscal 2016/2017 to repair 4.15 miles of road and curbing).   Although we'd have to pay $546,766 in interest over the 10-year repayment period, we'd be paying that interest with inflated dollars.  Since inflation is expected to average around 2.5% per year over the next decade, the real rate of interest taxpayers would be paying on such a bond is essentially zero.  To the Voters Choice Party, bonding our road repairs in this manner is the best way out of this mess.

Robert Berg is a Voters Choice Party Candidate for Scarsdale Trustee in the March 20, 2018 election.

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