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Can you dig it? Residents: Tear down Heights BQE and build a tunnel! • Brooklyn Paper

Can you dig it? Residents: Tear down Heights BQE and build a tunnel!

Tunnel vision: A tunnel beneath Downtown Brooklyn has been proposed in the past to replace the BQE's triple cantilever.

The city shouldn’t repair the crumbling stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that hangs below the Brooklyn Heights Promenade — it should knock the whole shoddy structure down and make a lasting investment in a sturdy tunnel instead, locals told Department of Transportation honchos at a meeting on Wednesday night.

“I do believe the tunnels are the best solution, money-wise,” said Bill Harris, who sits on the local community board’s transportation committee. “That’s the best way to put our money to work.”

City officials came to rap with locals about their plans to finally fix the dangerously old triple cantilever bridge that controversial city planner Robert Moses rammed through the neighborhoods in the 1940s, which they say will keep it from collapsing for another 75 years.

But residents demanded they think beyond putting the antique on life support, and reconsider the entire thoroughfare altogether.

“Why are we wedded to this idea of an elevated highway which killed a neighborhood and is difficult to maintain?” said one longtime local who claimed she remembers when the cantilever was built and it was “a piece of junk” then, too.

The transportation bigwigs said they’ve already thought of the tunnel idea, however, and found it would not only blow their budget, the roadway is in such bad shape, they don’t have the time to burrow.

“It sounds lovely. I would love it if we could build a tunnel and tear down the BQE, restore the neighborhood,” said department czar Polly Trottenberg. “But we need to be real about the challenges of tunneling.”

In order to accommodate the sea of traffic that traverses the lofted roadway each day, the city would need to build two tunnels with four travel lanes apiece, according to project manager Tanvi Pandya.

And even if the city had the dough to pay for them, engineers found that it would be difficult to construct a route that connected to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges while avoiding subway and water tunnels, Pandya said.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill

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