NYC’s Aging Infrastructure Could Be Dangerous, Says Report

March 11, 2014 Updated: March 12, 2014

The Center for an Urban Future, an NYC-based policy institute, released a report outlining the major infrastructure deficiencies that the city will need to face and focus on in the near future.  

The report, “Caution Ahead: Overdue Investments for New York’s Aging Infrastructure” written by Adam Forman notes that the city’s infrastructure has reached a dangerous state. 

“Much of the city’s roads, bridges, subways, water mains, sewer systems, school buildings and other public buildings are more than 50 years old, and many critical components are past their useful life and highly susceptible to breaks and malfunctions,” Forman writes in the report. 

The city is now facing some critical overdue repairs. According to the report the minimum cost of simply repairing or replacing the current infrastructure is around $47.3 billion, the city’s state of good repair funding gap will reach $34.2 billion over the next five years, all the while building construction costs increased 53 percent since 2000. 

For example, most of the city’s skeletal infrastructure dates back to the first half of the 20th century. The average age of 6,400 miles of sewage mains is around 84 years and 6,800 miles of water mains are around 69 years old. 

“In some cases, the infrastructure in New York is so old we don’t even know where it is under the street,” said city planner and historian Alexander Garvin in the report. “There can be a water main break in lower Manhattan and our engineers won’t be able to find it.”

To read the full report click here. Other key findings from the report:

  • The number of city streets with a pavement rating of “good” fell from 84.3 percent in 2000 to 69.6 percent in 2013.
  • In 2012, 162 bridges across the city—or 11 percent of the total—were structurally deficient.
  • The cost of simply repairing or replacing existing infrastruc- ture across the five boroughs is estimated to be $47.3 bil- lion. This figure does not include the cost of expansion proj- ects, such as new parks or schools. It also excludes the DEP, whose needs are well into the tens of billions of dollars. 
  • New York’s subway signaling system is old and obsolete. Of the 728 miles of mainline signals, 269 have exceeded their 50-year useful life—26 percent are more than 70 years old and 11 percent are between 50 and 69 years old. 
  • JFK’s air cargo facilities are 40 years old on average, with 63 percent of cargo space considered “non-viable,” or unfit for modern screening, storage and distribution. 
  • 2,200 miles of the water mains—roughly a third of the city’s total—are made of unlined cast iron that was laid before 1930. Another 2,400 miles are cement lined cast iron in- stalled between 1930 and 1969. Both materials are inferior to the flexible ductile iron used today and are susceptible to internal corrosion and prone to leak. 
  • Of NYCHA’s 2,600 buildings, 1,500 do not comply with Lo- cal Law 11 standards for exterior and façade conditions.
  • The average school building in the five boroughs was con- structed in 1948. Of the 1,200 school buildings in the DOE portfolio, 170 are more than a century old and 370 predate the Great Depression.