BQE closure ‘dumps traffic’ on Atlantic Avenue, to dismay of local merchants

BQE work
Crews added additional concrete and reinforcing steel bars to stretches of the crumbling cantilever near Clark Street and Grace Court to help ensure the structural longevity of the BQE
Photo courtesy of NYC DOT/X

The Department of Transportation partially closed the infamous triple cantilver on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway over the weekend to complete some much-needed repairs to the span — with closures to sections of the notoriously congested roadway pushing traffic onto surrounding streets, to the dismay of local businesses.

From Oct. 14-16, the department totally closed the Queens-bound BQE between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street, while the Staten Island-bound stretch was brought down to one lane. A number of exit and entrance ramps were also shuttered for the weekend.

Local merchants reported that the closures turned surrounded streets into through-ways, and vented their frustrations at a lack of enforcement of the interim traffic rules — though the DOT said it deployed additional traffic agents across the area and detoured usual routes to manage the traffic impacts.

Kelly Carroll, executive director of the Atlantic Avenue Business Improvement District, told Brooklyn Paper local business owners were unhappy with the undue level of congestion, honking and idling that came from what they said was a “the lack of enforcement” by traffic agents.

BQE cantilever
Almost all traffic was diverted off the cantilever while repairs were underway. File photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Traffic was redirected to local streets for the duration of the closure, with on street parking removed on the south side of Atlantic Avenue and the east side of State Street.

“That scheme works on paper, but it didn’t work as well as it should have because of the lack of enforcement,” Carroll said, noting that she received plenty of feedback from local business owners. “There were a lot of expletives used by a few people.”

Merchants told Carroll that the street was not a pleasant place to be due to the sheer volume of traffic and noise.

Carroll said the outreach from the DOT in the lead up to the work was “excellent,” but called on the department to have more people on the ground for merchants to consult in the future, should further traffic woes arise.

“From what my merchants and residents witnessed, it seemed that there wasn’t anybody on the ground during the weekend that they could address,” said Carroll. “I think there’s a disconnect between the people who are employed to do the enforcement and between the people in the office buildings that are making the plans and have good intentions. I think there’s a disconnect there.”

As part of the traffic management plan, left turns from Atlantic Avenue onto Hicks Street and Clinton Street were banned over the weekend. Carroll said the closures made congestion worse on the avenue — and added that the BID would like to see an alternative traffic plan implemented during future closures to help keep traffic off off Atlantic Avenue and stop it from again becoming  “the only artery with one left turn.”

“It would be nice to not be the street that constantly has to take all of it. We’re already on a truck route. We already were already a super wide street that is severely under curated,” said Carroll. “Every time there’s a diversion that dumps more traffic onto us, it just makes our pain points even more painful.”

crews on BQE
The DOT added new concrete and reinforced steel bars in parts of the cantilever. Photo courtesy of NYC DOT/X

The DOT acknowledged that there were significant traffic impacts from the closures, but said they were were less severe than anticipated.

In a post on X, the social media platform formally known as Twitter, the DOT said: “Crews worked in the rain yesterday to make repairs to the BQE, keeping the triple cantilever safe. Thank you to the workers and all who opted for other modes of transportation so the work could be done.”

The department added additional concrete and reinforced steel bars on sections of the cantilever near Grace Court to help ensure the safety and longevity of the span. The triple-stacked roadway has long been in need of an overhaul, with a large-scale “reimagining” of the cantilever in the works — but with the project’s timeline facing several setbacks, the DOT has opted to carry out short-term repairs on the “most damaged” sections of the roadway in the interim.

Additional closures to the BQE will occur next year, according to the DOT, details of which will be announced closer to the time of the work.

The department will again initiate a public notification campaign to inform locals of the closures and subsequent detours ahead of time so that the communities affected can plan their travel and commutes accordingly.