A few months after moving into Gracie Mansion, Mayor Bill de Blasio approached his transportation commissioner with a question: How do we fix the Franklin D. Roosevelt Drive?
An undulating, unloved route along the East River, the F.D.R. Drive has long been known for potholes, slowdowns and backups. “I certainly experienced it constantly,” Mr. de Blasio, who commutes to City Hall from the Upper East Side of Manhattan, said on Monday. “It just wasn’t in an acceptable state of repair for the greatest city in the world.”
Now the mayor, along with 150,000 other travelers who take the road each day, is set to enjoy a smoother ride. An $8.5 million revamp of the drive from 125th Street to the Brooklyn Bridge will be completed this week, with city officials billing the achievement as the road’s first end-to-end resurfacing since its completion in 1966.
Mr. de Blasio, at a ceremony on Monday, stood on the safe side of a guardrail as traffic zipped along the drive, rustling his orange windbreaker.
“This was always a bad road in terms of potholes, bumps, etc.,” the mayor said, although he noted that his personal “road from hell” remained the Cross Bronx Expressway, “which is still burned into my memory.”
A onetime Ford Escape enthusiast, now driven around by a police detail, the mayor said he recalled his motoring days fondly. He was also asked if his own travels had helped make the F.D.R. Drive a priority in a new citywide repaving effort.
“I’ve certainly experienced it,” the mayor said. “But, again, we’ve heard complaints about this one for a long, long time.”
Several former aides backed up the mayor’s remarks, recalling that Mr. de Blasio, a heavy BlackBerry user, was so intimately acquainted with the drive’s foibles that he knew the exact points on the route where cellphone signals would cut out.
Often, as he conducted conversations while driving, Mr. de Blasio would interrupt whomever was on the other end of the line to warn that his signal was about to go dead. Moments later, it would.
The F.D.R. Drive, a 9.5-mile route that transitions into the Harlem River Drive above the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, was constructed in piecemeal segments, and jurisdiction over its curves is shared by the city and the state.
The revamp, which began in July and was completed ahead of schedule, was the first attempt to resurface the entire length of the road at once, said Polly Trottenberg, the New York City transportation commissioner. City officials said they planned to resurface major routes in each of the city’s boroughs over several years.
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who spent much of his early tenure emphasizing a liberal ideology, has been keen of late to refocus on the nuts-and-bolts management side of his job.
On Monday, flanked by Transportation Department workers, the mayor described road repairs as “exactly what government should be focused on,” and noted that Staten Island residents in particular had asked him to focus on fixing streets.
The mayor also described some of his personal contributions to the process.
“I like to give Polly reports from where I am around the city of what I’m seeing, and I certainly call her when I hit the bump in the road,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I tell her exactly where it is, so she can follow up.”
Article Originally Featured on The New York Times