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Fix the BQE! – Brooklyn Paper

Fix the BQE!

The Brooklyn–Queens Expressway clearly needs to be fixed.
Photo By Stefano Giovannini

We wuz robbed.

Last week’s decision by the Cuomo administration to halt the reconstruction of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway’s crumbling triple-cantilever section under Brooklyn Heights is not merely a decision that will result in a tragic human toll, but is a classic example of the failures of government officials to protect and serve the public over the long term.

In issuing the order to terminate the early phase of the multi-year project, state officials cited other, more-pressing, priorities for limited taxpayer dollars.

We understand the importance of making tough calls; that’s why this page tends to endorse public officials who are capable of making them.

But there is a difference between making tough calls and pretending that craven decisions are tough calls. And that is what state officials have done in canceling preliminary work on the 20-year-long project.

The portion that was eliminated represented just $1.2 million in state funds, the dust that falls off the chump change in the state’s $130-billion budget. But by pulling the plug, the state ensures that the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway repairs cannot be done in time for the roadway’s likely collapse.

A simple review of the facts reveals the extent of the state’s incompetence:

• The roadway is operating more than 20 years beyond its expected life and has serious safety deficiencies already.

• It carries 160,000 cars and trucks per day — far more than it was carrying when it opened in 1949.

• Such factors make it difficult to find a comprehensive repair strategy. This kind of thing takes time.

• Transportation officials admit that the roadway’s structural integrity will reach a critical point within 10 years.

• Thanks to the cancellation of the preliminary work, a new roadway will no longer be in place before that 10-year deadline. Indeed, even before the work was cancelled last week, state officials were concerned that repairs would not be completed before the roadway would crumble.

If you consider all those facts, the inescapable conclusion is that an investment must be made — now! — to ensure that repairs are completed on time.

But politicians (and, let’s be fair, the voters who don’t hold them accountable) have always had a problem with spending today on projects that someone else will get to cut the ribbon on. But the same pols have no problem taking credit when they do the right thing.

A month ago, for example, Gov. Cuomo cut the ribbon on a new bridge between two tiny towns in upstate and neighboring Vermont.

“Today’s [ceremony] demonstrates,” the governor said in his loftiest oratory, “that, once again, New York State government can work effectively and efficiently for the people.”

If it was only true, Andrew. If it was only true.

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