If only the state treasurer had a dollar for every pothole cratering New Jersey’s highways and byways this winter – and their victims – the Garden State’s budget crunch would be that much closer to being eased, if early postings on the new NJPothole website are a fair indicator.
Developed by Wansoo Im, a planning instructor at Rutgers’ Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, where he earned his doctorate, users reported 421 craters on the state’s roads, more than 70 percent described as “dangerous,” in the first five days following the site’s Feb. 20 launch.“With the onslaught of snow and the weary winter weather, potholes are popping up everywhere on our roads and highways,” says Im, who specializes in undergraduate courses in community mapping. He launched the site to better inform local governments and drivers of their growing presence. "Before they learn firsthand with flat tires and broken axles, we created a community map that can be accessed by the web or the MapplerK mobile app from Apple or Android devices," he said.
“Community members can log details for potholes, such as location, size, depth, width and approximate location,” Im noted. “Users can browse through the data using the list and chart functions.”
Im, who heads New Brunswick-based Vertices LLC, a GIS consulting and interactive mapping firm, describes community mapping as a hobby, which he began to help nonprofit organizations. He created the Hurricane Sandy Gas Station Map in 2012 to allow storm-struck locals to track gas availability on their smartphones in the wake of the devastating storm. He is teaming with a Bloustein School colleague, Justin Auciello, to publicize the pothole directory on Facebook’s Jersey Shore Hurricane News, which has more than 220,000 followers.
As the number of potholes, perturbed drivers and visits to local body shops and tire stores grow, the state is offering the potential for some relief for motorists “lucky enough” to have encountered their mishaps on state roads. Drivers can call the state Treasury Department’s Division of Risk Management to make pothole damage claims at 609-292-4347 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Callers will be emailed claim forms. Counties and towns have different policies for pothole damage on their roads.
The Treasury Department received 508 claims for reimbursement in 2012 and more than 1,400 in 2011, another really bad winter. While the number of reimbursements is not known, the department assures that all claims are investigated.