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Driver: Palisades Parkway Potholes Put Me In Hospital

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ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS, N.J. (CBSNewYork)Potholes have made for a frustrating and dangerous situation all along Tri-State Area roads, and one of the busiest roadways is so rough that has been sending people to the hospital.

As WCBS 880′s Sean Adams reported, motorists agree the Palisades Interstate Parkway is in horrible shape, especially on one stretch that spans two states.

Carol Bayard ended up in a car crash in Bergen County, N.J., that left her Mercedes Benz wrecked after she hit a pothole on the northbound lanes of the Palisades Parkway.

“I don’t even know how I survived,” Bayard said.

She went flying through the median after hitting the crater.

“I thought that a tree was going to stop the car but I smashed into it,” said Bayard, of Englewood, N.J., “and then it pushed me into the other side of the highway. On the southbound side, I broke through the iron rail and was facing oncoming traffic.”

Bayard was able to steer her car to the shoulder without getting hit by another vehicle, but her body took a beating. She was rushed to Englewood Hospital and Medical Center in Englewood, where doctors told her she was among a growing number of patients coming in with injuries caused by potholes.

“We have been seeing a lot of very significant injuries due to potholes,” said Dr. Barbara Schreibman of Englewood Medical Center. “People either swerve to avoid potholes, and hit into another car.

Schreibman, an emergency room doctor, said the most common injuries are neck and back sprains. The most traumatic have been head injuries from striking windshields or steering wheels.

“The road is almost like a third world when you’re rumbling over it,” Bayard said.

Bayard had a CT scan, but surprisingly only turned out to have suffered bumps and bruises. She and her husband regularly drive along the Palisades Parkway in New Jersey, which has not been paved in 18 years.

Part of the problem revolves around a battle over who should pay for repairs, CBS 2’s Weijia Jiang reported. As a result, the New York side is in far better shape than the New Jersey side.

“It’s very rocky, and very holey, and just a terrible ride,” said Richard Sanchez of the Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, “and then it turns smooth as soon as you get to Exit 5 on the New York State side. I don’t know what the reason for that is.”

Abdul Latif described the conditions he’s experienced driving through Englewood Cliffs.

“I think I’m driving in a third world country, actually. I’ve had two blowouts this month alone,” he told Adams. “To be reasonable, the whole Tri-State area. But this in particular needs to be addressed.”

In the 1970s, the New York State Department of Transportation took over the stretch of the expressway in New York. It was repaved nine years ago.

But the Palisades Interstate Park Commission, not the New Jersey Department of Transportation, maintains the 11.5-mile portion in New Jersey.

The head of the commission said his organization simply does not have the $14.5 million it would cost to repave.

“I wish I could,” commission executive director James Hall said in a statement. “But I can’t print money, so we’re subject to whatever the state appropriates.”

Hall said every year for the past five years, he has asked for funding from the state – specifically to repave the affected section of the parkway. But the money has yet to come through.

The last time the New Jersey section of the parkway was paved – in 1996 – the New Jersey DOT steps in. But department spokesman Steve Schapiro said that will not be happening this time.

The Palisades Interstate Park Commission owns to gas stations that bring in $3 million of gas tax a year. So why not use that?

“It can’t be returned to that commission,” said New Jersey State Assemblyman Gordon Johnson (D-Teaneck.) “The gas tax goes into a fund, as stated in our constitution – it goes to a fund to repair all the roadways in New Jersey.”

So it seems part of the pothole problem is a game of hot potato – who should, and can foot the bill?

Bayard and her husband said the current condition is unacceptable.

“To me, that’s gross negligence — when you allow a road to stay open where people are driving their cars with the expectation of harm,” said Peter Bayard.

“I was lucky to survive,” added Carol Bayard, “and the next person might not be so lucky. And we really need to have this fixed once and for all.”

State lawmakers insist something has to be done, Adams reported. But there is no clear answer, so the potholes persist.

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