Caution Ahead: Five Years Later


In this 2019 update to the Center for an Urban Future landmark 2014 report titled “Caution Ahead” on New York City’s aging infrastructure, we find that the city has made record-level capital investments, but results have been mixed. Increased usage and new stresses from climate change make bringing the city’s core infrastructure to a state of good repair all the more essential.

The new analysis shows that some of the problems that have been documented five years ago have only gotten worse and that the new stressors like climate change have only added to the overall price tag to bring the city’s core infrastructure to a state of good repair.

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Increased capital investment—particularly in water and sewer infrastructure and street resurfacing—is beginning to show results. But in other areas, conditions have gotten worse as needs have grown.

Although the city has ramped up the pace of water main replacement, there were still 522 water main breaks last year—the highest total in over a decade.

New York City’s bridges also show mixed results. The number of structurally deficient bridges—those in need of substantial maintenance and repair—has declined but the number of bridges that are also fractured critical—at risk of partial collapse—has increased.