State on BQE fix: Failure IS an option

No ‘Big Dig’: Planners likely to take BQE tunnel option off the table
The elevated Brooklyn–Queens Expressway stack desperately needs repair.
The Brooklyn Paper / Evan Gardner

The planned rehabilitation of the crowded and dangerous section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO — a roadway that includes a stretch with 10 times more accidents than the state average — may not bring the aging interstate up to federal highway standards, officials admitted last week.

“To that extent that we can, we’ll bring it up to standards. But sometimes it’s not possible,” said Peter King, the regional program and planning manager for the New York State Department of Transportation.

State transportation officials are in the early stages of a decade-long planning process for a major overhaul of the portion of the BQE that skirts the Brooklyn waterfront, but the complexity of the project may prevent them from raising the road conditions up to all minimum federal regulations.

Between Sands Street and Atlantic Avenue — the area due for repair — the highway abuts densely populated neighborhoods, crosses seven subway tunnels, borders the proposed Brooklyn Bridge Park, spans 21 bridges and carries 140,000 vehicles per day. It includes the triple cantilever (world-renowned in engineering circles), the shelf-like, but stressed-out, section beneath the scenic Promenade.

Effects of the tight confines are already evident in the high number of car crashes on this stretch of I-278.

The narrow lanes, short on-ramps and lack of shoulders along the highway make this part of the BQE especially dangerous and agonizingly congested.

Accidents occur at a rate 10 times above the state average for one section near Atlantic Avenue, where there’s a precarious entrance ramp.

Other nearby portions have rates far above the state accident rate, too.

According to the state Transportation Department’s Web site, the $300-million construction project will begin in 2017 and end in 2020, though those dates have been shifting.

Only a small number of people attended two preliminary review sessions on Monday.

Some attendees called for the state to expand the project so treacherous westbound entrances will be rebuilt or, to ease rush-hour commuting, to extend a high-occupancy vehicle lane from the Gowanus Expressway into the BQE.

Another pressing concern that aired again was the possibility of conflict between the highway project and construction of Brooklyn Bridge Park, a possibility raised last fall.

But officials from the state Department of Transportation and Brooklyn Bridge Park Development Corporation have said they are in consultation with each other.

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