Sections of the BQE’s triple cantilever will be closed for three weekends between March and October next year while “emergency repairs” are made to areas around Clark Street, Grace Court and the Joralemon Street garage, Department of Transport reps told a community meeting last week.
Queens-bound lanes will be closed for all three weekends, while Staten Island bound traffic will be less affected with just one lane closed on the first weekend, DOT Executive Director, BQE, Design Build and Emergency Contracts Tanvi Pandya told the 60-plus Brooklyn locals gathered on Zoom for the presentation.
The dates for the weekend closures aren’t known yet, but they won’t be back to back, Pandya said. The time of the closures will be from Saturday 2 a.m. to Monday 4 a.m. In preparation for the work, each weekend closure will be preceded by several night closures to get rid of the old concrete and rebar that needs to be replaced. Those shutdowns will run from 1 a.m. until 5 a.m.
Pandya said it’s likely the first weekend closure, which will involve the most extensive work, will require around 10 nights of preparation, while the following should require less, she said.
“Some of you might recall, because of the way the structure is built, we cannot remove too much concrete from any one section at any one time because it destabilizes the structure,” Pandya said. “Since we want to open it up to traffic every morning, we need to maintain its integrity to a certain extent. So this is why it’s being broken up into three strips starting from the closest to the joint and then moving further out.”
Responding to a question, Pandya said that while the work could be done much faster if it was done at once, it wasn’t viable to close the BQE for a longer period of time given its importance as a transport route.
Through its monitoring of the roadway, DOT has determined the sections being tackled during these closures are the most in need of repair, and the fixes should extend their lifetime by 10 to 15 years, Pandya said.
The area of the BQE near Clark Street needs deck, column and beam repairs, and the fan plant, which is accessible through a manhole, needs structural repairs, she said. Near Grace Court, deck repair is needed. The Joralemon car park also needs structural repairs to an abutment, piles and concrete beams.
“There will have to be significant detour roads, and a lot of traffic needs to be managed, not just in this area but regionally,” Pandya said, adding DOT is working closely with New Jersey, Port Authority, Connecticut, New York State and MTA officials to make sure everything is coordinated.
“There will be tons of traffic agents in many, many locations. There will also be pedestrian managers, particularly, you know, given the warmer weather, along the park, and certain other major intersections that see a lot of pedestrian activity,” she added.
For all the weekend closures, entrance ramps along Queens-bound lanes will be closed and detour routes will be provided. Pandya said DOT will encourage alternate modes of transportation where possible, station traffic agents and pedestrian managers at key intersections, install VMS signs informing travelers of closures/detours, make adjustments to lane configurations, enforce turn restrictions at some intersections and station emergency services at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
She also said there will be extensive noise mitigation efforts, which will include requiring contractors to use sound blankets and constantly monitor sound levels. DOT will also require dust mitigation, although she said that shouldn’t be such an issue working with the old concrete. “The noise mitigation will definitely be something that we will be very attentive towards.”
She said DOT expects to finalize contractors in early 2023 and will try to establish work dates immediately. “As soon as that is settled, we’ll get that out to everyone as quickly as we can,” she said.
During the Nov. 16 meeting, where attendees could ask questions in the chat, one local resident Pia questioned why the area around exit 28 west, the Columbia Street Bridge and the Harry Chapin playground isn’t being addressed when “it actually vibrates under your feet.”
“I can only tell you that I need to stuff paper between my door and the latch so that it doesn’t shake all night,” she told the DOT reps on the call. “Why are we not being included in this quote unquote emergency repair situation?”
Pandya said the area had been looked into and wasn’t deemed an emergency, which Pia questioned.
“I would like you to live here and think about whether this is an emergency, Tanvi. I’m sorry, I know that everyone tries to be nice and calm and we’ve all tried to listen to what you’ve had to say. But I’m just going to tell you something, if you were living here in our home, with our homes vibrating, and our everything vibrating, the doors vibrating, then we would go to a playground, which is also vibrating and you tell me that this is not an emergency, I actually have to tell you that my trust in the DOT is not there anymore.”
Overall, Pandya said the upcoming work shouldn’t cause any new vibrations, and said DOT could install vibration monitors near the work sites.
Council Member Lincoln Restler, who was on the call, said it was critically important DOT stays in close coordination with local neighborhoods “because this work is going to have a major impact on Brooklyn Heights.”
“There’s going to be closures that are going to affect traffic patterns across the Tri-state area quite literally, but the prep work that is going to happen in advance of those closures is going to have huge impacts for us, from a noise standpoint, quality of life standpoint and so we just need to be prepared and organized and ready to try to manage it the best we can,” he said.
The immediate repairs are being planned to run concurrently with DOT’s new BQE Central and BQE North and South project, which is set to establish a longterm plan for the roadway using national funding available thanks to the recently passed Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Pandya said the planned work will not affect the Brooklyn Heights Promenade and the contractors will not be using any staging or laydown areas.
This story first appeared on Brownstoner.