BOSTON—Jean Washburn walks the roads of Boston every day, but over the past few years she’s felt her safety has been in jeopardy given the conditions of the roads. The potholes and lack of shoulders have gotten worse, she said, and she felt she had to do something about it.
“I called [Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw] after seeing an advertisement for his pothole hotline,” Washburn said. “I’ve been hoping for some action for almost 10 years.”
Mychajliw and Washburn toured the area in March, and on April 10 a press conference unveiling “Poloncarz Fix This Road Now” signs was held with Erie County Legislator John Mills, Boston Supervisor Jason Keding, Mychajliw and Washburn. The signs, paid for out of Mills’ own pocket, are available to residents in the county who deem their road in need of pothole fixing. For Washburn, that’s Zimmerman Road and Back Creek Road in the Town of Boston.
“The condition of the county roads are deplorable,” Mychajliw said. “It’s embarrassing and resembles a third world country. [Washburn] has felt she’s been ignored … we have to fix this.”
Zimmerman Road, which serves as a major thoroughfare in the town, is littered with potholes, as it Back Creek Road, which Keding said also suffers from a lack of plowing in the winter months.
“Boston Elementary School is on that road, and it doesn’t get plowed,” the first-year supervisor said. “That’s a matter of public safety for our kids. As a parent, that’s personal.”
Keding also said the potholes are causing issues for the Boston Fire Department and its ambulance patients. Being on a backboard and hitting potholes is unfair, he said. For residents, he said, it’s not only a matter of public safety but has also gone on for too long.
“Enough is enough,” Keding said. “It can be done … it’s just a matter of the county doing its job … for the residents, the children and drivers.”
There was a rumor half of Zimmerman and Back Creek roads would be getting paved, Mychajliw said, but only doing half the job is unacceptable. It’s about priority, and the County should be prioritizing roads that have been neglected, he said.
“The county is talking about school consolidation … but not focusing on its own roads,” Mychajliw said. “Erie County needs to get its own house in order first. Fix these potholes and gaping holes in county roads now.”
Erie County Department of Public Works Commissioner Bill Geary said the county has over a thousand miles of roads for which they are responsible. Back Creek Road, he said, can’t undergo repaving until the slope at the back end, toward Mill Street, is addressed. He noted both Zimmerman and Back Creek roads are “local road,” or a county road that doesn’t “functionally meet a county standard.” It doesn’t link towns and villages, he said.
“It’s a tough balance,” he said. “The timing of this is amazing, because this morning, we were still plowing these roads.”
Due to the weather, Geary said, hot asphalt, which is used to repave is not being made in the southtowns.
Mills said the funding for road work has been added to county budgets in the past, but the issue is the projects never make it to fruition. He noted there is a large number of road miles in Erie County, and in his district, but said that shouldn’t matter.
“Let’s face it, people want police protection, garbage pick up and good roads,” Mills said. “They want their tax dollars to go to public safety. The funding is in place, shame on us, this has got to change.”
The Fix This Road signs were debuted last year after residents on Springville-Boston Road complained about the quality of their road. The signs were made available to residents who were asked to sign a letter saying they’d take care of the sign and return it when their road was fixed. Similar to Zimmerman Road, Springville-Boston Road hadn’t undergone major work in roughly 10 years. The road was resurfaced in 2017.
“That’s the end game. Let’s get this road fixed,” Keding said. “I’ve gotten more than 50 phone calls [about road conditions] … and I can’t do anything about it.”
Keding said he’s heard the talking point that roads with higher traffic counts take priority, but said that was unfair and leaves smaller towns like Boston with nowhere to turn.
“Let’s be honest, we pay the same taxes as the rest of the county,” he said. “There is no reason this should be prioritized based on traffic.”
As for Washburn, she’s hoping she’ll be able to get back to her daily walks without fear of getting hit by a driver trying to avoid a pothole.
“I just want to feel safe on my roads,” she said. “I feel like I’m going to get hit.”
Residents who are interested in one of Mills’ signs can call his office at 858-8850.