City proposes new redesign for BQE triple cantilever, delays construction until 2029

The city has proposed a new fix for the Triple Cantilever section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.
File photo by Todd Maisel

The city has a new proposal for the battered triple cantilever portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Brooklyn Heights, but no matter how the administration chooses to overhaul the roadway, construction won’t start until 2029, a year later than the most recently-announced plan.

Ahead of two public workshops about “BQE Central,” the 1.5-mile city-owned stretch of the BQE between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street, the Department of Transportation released their newest idea for the triple cantilever — a “stacked” design, not dissimilar to the roadway’s current three-tiered layout.

stacked BQE design
A rendering of the current BQE layout (left) and the proposed “stacked” design (right.) Image courtesy of NYC DOT

The new layout, though, would tuck the Staten Island-bound lanes directly below the Queens-bound ones, where the existing Staten Island-bound lanes jut out slightly. In the new proposal, a skeletal wall would fence in the Staten-Island bound lanes, blocking them from view from street level.

In order to tuck the lower lanes directly below the upper ones, the city would have to relocate an MTA conduit room located beside the roadway, and it’s not currently clear how feasible that is, per a DOT presentation shared with Brooklyn Paper. The stacked structure would mean the roadway would be 20% wider than it is currently, to account for federal highway regulations, and would also require the city to rebuild the retaining wall along the triple cantilever. 

The “stacked” design is the city’s fourth proposed redesign for the triple cantilever. According to Gothamist, DOT commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said last week that he’s not sure if the city will choose this new design, or decide to move forward with one of the other three.

The city is in the midst of an in-depth traffic study of the BQE, according to the DOT, and is working alongside the state DOT and the Federal Highway Administration. This fall, the three agencies are expected to begin a “pre-environmental review process” before the actual environmental review begins in 2025.

bqe design
Renderings show the proposed wall that would close off the triple cantilever. Image courtesy of NYC DOT

Finally, construction is slated to start in 2029. The work has already been delayed several times – last year, the city pushed back the start of the environmental review — delaying construction by several months. In May, city officials admitted that construction would not realistically start until 2028, after the federal government rejected a grant application to fund the project. 

In 2020, a panel of experts warned that the triple cantilever could be unsafe for vehicle traffic as soon as 2026. The city has sought to extend its lifespan by reducing the number of vehicle lanes, cracking down on overweight trucks on the span, and carrying out short-term spot repairs.

Though some locals criticized the repeated delays, the city insisted last week that the BQE is safe, and is “one of the most closely-monitored pieces of infrastructure in the city.” If the full overhaul isn’t carried out soon, the city might have to reconsider stricter weight restrictions or full closures, according to the DOT.

The city hosted an in-person public BQE workshop on June 20, and will host a virtual workshop on Zoom at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, June 24.