State nixes BQE fixes

State nixes BQE fixes
File photo by Evan Gardner

The feds are pulling the plug on a vital, and long-promised, overhaul of a crumbling portion of the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway, saying that fixing the borough’s transportation artery is just too expensive.

On Tuesday, state and federal transportation officials terminated the first phase of the roughly $254-million project — effectively killing the overdue reconstruction of the 1.5-mile, triple-cantilevered stretch under Brooklyn Heights and its fabled Promenade.

Officials said they would make piecemeal repairs instead.

“They’re making a big mistake — no matter how much funding they may or may not have,” said architect Allen Swerdlow. “The process has gone on for over 20 years and it’s not seen a lot of logical conclusions. We need to make this better, safer and environmentally correct.

“You have a huge amount of truck movement on undersized lanes — there’s definitely a danger,” he added.

The state Department of Transportation has already begun initial planning of the rehabilitation of the 57-year-old highway — a dire fix that was set to begin full construction by 2020, nearly 30 years beyond the roadway’s original lifespan.

The aging triple cantilever is considered at immediate risk. The rapidly degrading roadway abuts Brooklyn Bridge Park and carries more than 160,000 vehicles a day — far more than it was originally designed to accommodate.

That portion of the roadway currently fails to meet federal highway standards.

To get it up to speed — literally and figuratively, the state had estimated at least $250 million for a simple reconstruction, but up to $20 billion for a tunnel from Sunset Park to Greenpoint. Washington would put up 80 percent of the funding — but state planners are saying there isn’t enough money for the bare-bones improvements.

“In these financially difficult times, the [Transportation Department] is making strategic choices to make the best use of our limited resources,” said Naomi Doerner of Sam Schwartz Engineering in an e-mail to transportation representatives.

The state will continue making repairs to the BQE but “in a comprehensive manner as funds become available,” said Jonathan McDade, a state administrator for the Federal Highway Administration, in his notice rescinding the repair work.

That cool confidence flies in the face of an earlier comment by a state transportation official, who said in 2009 that the roadway could last 10 to 15 years before it declines steeply. With the termination of the current repair project, any eventual construction could not be completed before that deadline.

As part of the cutbacks, the state also axed plans for a major rehabilitation of the four-mile Gowanus Expressway.

Reach Kate Briquelet at [email protected] or by calling her at (718) 260-2511.