New York City's Infrastructure Isn't Getting Any Younger

And it's not aging particularly well, either

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 - 11:05 AM

A water main break early on January 15, 2013 leaves a crater in the street at 13th Street and 5th Avenue. A water main break early on January 15, 2013 leaves a crater in the street at 13th Street and 5th Avenue. (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

We know New York is an old city with aging infrastructure, but now we have an idea of just how vulnerable it is.

The Center for an Urban Future has interviewed hundreds of infrastructure experts and reveals a city seemingly held together with spit and glue. The report found that a substantial portion of the city's water mains, subways, public housing and roads are more than 50 years old and in serious need of repair. But to bring the city's essential infrastructure into that state of good repair will take several years—and $47 billion.

"This is a city where so much of it was built up in the first half of the 20th century, it's an old city," Jonathan Bowles, CUF's executive director, said on the Brian Lehrer Show. "It's more than just water main breaks. A lot of our basic infrastructure is deteriorating."

Key findings include:

  • On average, gas mains are 56 years old and suffered 5,835 leaks in 2012.
  • More than 160 bridges in all five boroughs were built over a century ago. "In 2012, 162 bridges across the city—or 11 percent of the total—were structurally deficient." Forty-seven bridges were "deemed both structurally deficient and fracture critical"—meaning engineers say there is almost no structural redundancy, making them candidates for failure and collapse.
  • There are 269 of 728 miles of subway mainline signals are past their 50-year useful life, with 26 percent being more than 70 years old. The report finds this slows down trains. They've also found that maintenance workers are building their own replacement parts, since the original manufacturers no longer produce those parts.
  • 63% of cargo space at JFK Airport is "non viable" or "unfit for modern screening, storage, and distribution

The authors of the report suggest the city needs to invest $47.3 billion in the next five years to replace and repair the existing infrastructure.

Key Data from "Caution Ahead"


Comments [3]


when was the last time yourstupid state even built a major monumental bridge need a hint ? go back to the HIRST WORLD TOUROF THE BEATLES AT SHEA STADIUM!THIS is a record of criminal NEGLIGENCE and DERELICTION of duty that is unparralled in modern times THIS THISIS THE PUTRID PRE DESTINEATED LEGASY of a generation of judas iscariot new yorkers who thot infrastructural improvements upgrades and construction IRRELEVANT the geriatric WEASEL robert caro along with the PUSSILLAMINOUSPIPSQUEAKS of the NASSAU COUNTY planning commission REBUFFED robert moses great daring wealth producing JOB CREATING TOURISM PROMOTING plan for the RYE OYSTER BAY BRIDGE IN 1971 and SUCCUMBED TO THE SIREN SONGS of the POST MENUPASUALSLUT who HATED HATED cars jane jacobs and the WEASEL caro who thot bridge building a waste of tax payer revenues really REALLY no wonder your stupid state is the INFRASTRUCTURAL TOILET BOWL OF AMERICA no wonder the businesses and jobs have left your stupid state by THE DROVES no wonder the COFFERS of your stupid state are EMPTY NOW LONG ISLAND HAS DEGENERATED INTO A DEMONIC DEATHTRAP with no north south EVACUATION ROUTE because of this UNBUILT UNBUILT BRIDGE yea but that was over 40 yrs. ago MILLIONS of poor slob motorists must now SCHELPP their way out of that man made deathtrap on the WORLDS LONGEST PARKING LOT TO SODOM THE L.I.E. THE LONG ISLAND DISTRESSWAY my mother had a spoiled stink,in flea bitten POODLE NAMED SANDY!

May. 03 2014 11:34 AM
Common Sense from NYC

I agree Steven.

We need major public capital projects beyond the private residential housing boom to sustain future growth.

Subway expansion would be front and center on my agenda.

I also believe that crowdsourcing is a great option for small projects like pedestrian plaza beautifications.

Mar. 13 2014 04:03 PM

The crumbling infrastructure isn't exactly news. Taxation is a dirty word, and the cost of maintaining a modern city is daunting. When I was a teenager in the early sixties I thought 2014 would be the future, instead, much of the city is a run down version of the sixties. I think a choice of individual wealth has been made over public need.

Mar. 11 2014 07:31 PM

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