City cuts open BQE, finds it has 10 years to live

City cuts open BQE, finds it has 10 years to live
NYC Department of Transportation

This is the inside scoop!

The city must start fixing the crumbling three-tiered section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway soon, or else it will need to shut the busy thoroughfare for emergency repairs in a decade and send tens of thousands of cars to residential Brooklyn Heights streets, Department of Transportation officials say they have determined after recently cutting into the decrepit roadway for the first time since it was built almost 70 years ago.

“The structure has been out there 60-some years and things are starting show their long life now,” project manager Tanvi Pandya told community members at a meeting about the repairs on Nov. 1. “At this point we really need to start planning, otherwise in 10 to 12 years we can expect that we’ll have to shut down the lanes day and night … there’s going to be major disruptions because obviously when people can’t go on the BQE they’re going to have to go on local streets.”

Over summer, workers drilled into several spots in the triple cantilever bridge, which runs from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street and is already 10 years past its expected lifespan. Inside, they found scaffolding from when the thoroughfare was first built in 1949, but fortunately nothing drastically wrong, Pandya said.

They conducted several tests on the concrete to find out how durable it still is and found that it had been worn down from cold weather, and that a few more freezing winters will speed up the damage, according to Pandya.

“If we have several winters with lots of snow we’re looking at quicker deterioration of the structure,” she said.

There are also many leaky joints that are causing extra wear and tear, she said.

Locals hounded the transportation reps with concerns about traffic being diverted onto local streets during the repairs, but they assured residents that the contractor who gets the gig must keep Furman Street and three lanes of traffic on the roadway open in every direction.

The fix is in: The triple cantilever.
The Brooklyn Paper / Evan Gardner

“There is no plan to shut Furman Street as of now,” said Bob Collyer, the city’s deputy commissioner of bridges. “Nothing is going to be shut down, we’re looking to keep traffic flowing.”

Collyer also promised neighbors that they won’t have to deal with additional construction from Mayor DeBlasio’s planned streetcar, as he scuttled plans the city had to bring the so-called Brooklyn-Queens Connector along Furman Street.

“The BQX had a proposal to run along York and Furman Street and along Columbia down towards the tunnel and I told them ‘You’ve got to stay away from the BQE or were just gonna stop it right now,’ ” he said. “If they’re coming by my structure, yes I get upset.”

Funding for the reconstruction will come mostly out of the city’s coffers, and federal officials have promised they will also contribute, but the state is still refusing to kick in any cash, despite demands from local residents and pols, according to Collyer.

State honchos were planning to fund the fixes several years ago, but nixed their plans in 2011 after deciding the decrepit hanging roadway wasn’t “urgent” enough, Collyer told the crowd.

The expressway is state-controlled, but Albany has wriggled out of paying for the patch-up through a loophole that leaves it off the hook for fixing highways that don’t meet specific federal standards.

Repairs are expected to begin in 2024 and end in 2029, although they could be done between 2021 and 2026 if the state passes legislation to allow the city Department of Transportation to use the same contractor for design and construction, the reps said.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Surprise: Inside, workers found scaffolding from when the bridge was first built almost 70 years ago.
NYC Department of Transportation