The fix is in! Gridlock Sam says BQE repairs must happen before it’s too late!

Brooklyn Paper
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They cantilever it alone any longer!

The city must act now to repair the past-its-prime highway that hangs below the Brooklyn Heights Promenade before it is to late, a revered transportation expert told The Brooklyn Paper this week.

“Gridlock” Sam Schwartz said concrete on the so-called triple-cantilever portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway — an engineering marvel that is more than 10 years past its intended lifespan — is crumbling, exposing the steel-mesh underbelly to corrosion. If that happens, lanes will have to be closed and reconstruction work accelerated.

“It’s time the city and state got to work on it,” said the former New York City traffic commissioner.

Schwartz worked with the city in 2009 on a plan to reconstruct the 1.5 mile roadway that curves around Brooklyn Heights, but the state killed the project when it pulled funding in 2011 after deciding the overhaul was too expensive.

A spokeswoman for the city’s Department of Transportation said it is in the early stages of the reconstruction process and is evaluating the structure, but added it is too early to guess the price tag and timeline. It will start reaching out to local stakeholders in the coming weeks to provide updates on the planning process, she said. She refused to say who will pay for the project, but a response to the local community board’s budget requests says approval is dependent on sufficient federal and state funds.

Schwartz estimated the gargantuan renewal will cost upwards of $500 million.

Locals involved in the last round of planning say someone must do something about the crumbling roadway that carries more than 160,000 cars each day before something terrible happens.

“It’s such an integral part of the transportation network in Brooklyn that we can’t wait for failure,” said Rob Perris, who is the district manager of Community Board 2. “We have to be proactive about planning for either its repair or replacement.”

Perris said the transportation department met with community members last time around, and people were keen to demolish the cantilever altogether and construct a tunnel from Carroll Gardens to Williamsburg.

Schwartz said it is unlikely residents will ever get their dream tunnel, though, since the cash-strapped city wouldn’t have enough money to pay for the pricey project.

Folks want to make sure the transportation department integrates Brooklyn Bridge Park — which wasn’t around when the cantilever was designed in the 1940s — in its plans and creates an access point to the water, says a leader of the Brooklyn Heights Association, who met with the transportation department in October about the project.

The Brooklyn Queens-Expressway is no Pantheon and wasn’t designed to stand the test of time, he said.

“I don’t think any structure is built with a useful life that long,” said Peter Bray, who is the executive director of the Brooklyn Heights Association. “I think there’s little question that a major overhaul is due.”

Before it gets to work on the new passage that runs underneath the fabled Brooklyn Heights Promenade, the city will also have to figure out a way to reroute the thousands of cars that travel the important connector each day, which will also require extensive community input.

A rep for the transportation department said it conducts regular inspections on the cantilever and commuters are safe.

The Heights Association announced at its annual meeting last month there’s enough money in the bank to begin work on the massive revamp and it will commence talks with the city about the lengthy reconstruction process soon. The Promenade and the highway beneath, which opened in the early 1950s, was built to last 50 years and construction on its new incarnation is not likely to begin for at least a decade — making it nearly 40 years past its prime.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Proper agency identified.
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Reasonable discourse

Vooch from Park Slope says:
How Much should the toll be on the BQE to cover this cost ?

I calculate the toll should be $2 each Way to cover just the cost of this 1 1/2 mile rebuild. This could easily be charged by automatic readers just like on the Henry Hudson Bridge.

BQE users should be prepared to Pay the full cost of Their use of the BQE. It's only fair
March 7, 2016, 9:02 am
Mike from Slope says:
Let it crumble. A world without the BQE would be a much better world.
March 7, 2016, 9:34 am
Rob from NY says:
To prevent collapse, it is critical to reduce the number of vehicles using it ASAP. There are choices on how to reduce vehicles: tolls (price rationing); odd-even rationing; etc.

But we need Governor Cuomo's Transportation Dept to step up and make the tough decisions on this.
March 7, 2016, 9:40 am
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
Absolutely right, Mike. Why should there be a direct highway truck route so the people in South Brookyn can get their groceries delivered on a daily basis? Tear down the BQE, and let all the trucks drive through the streets in Park Slope, just as you wish. (belated sarcasm alert)
March 7, 2016, 9:46 am
Stephen from Queens says:
I'm confused about the math in the last sentence. Let's say it opened in 1950. 50 years later is 2000. So, now, in 2016, we're 16 years past its prime. If construction starts in 10 years, we're 26 years past it. Now if the prime countdown starts when construction starts, then, ok, we're going to be at 40 by the time the repairs / replacement start getting done.
March 7, 2016, 10:11 am
Q from think about it says:
The ground work for a tunnel has already been laid - the BQE is subgrade starting at Hamilton Ave and ending at Atlantic Ave. Within this existing "ditch", we continue to burro and tunnel across to the other side bypassing the cantilevered roadway in its entirety. Separate tubes could lead direct to the bridges and streamline traffic reducing congestion and the extra pollution it creates. Further, exhaust captured in the tunnel would be filtered removing the harmful pollutants.

The old cantilevered structure could become a commercial strip "an Overhead Riverwalk" complementing Brooklyn Bridge Park with foot bridges and the like. It could be completely isolated from the neighborhood of Brooklyn Heights or have stairway/elevator portals to integrate it depending on what the community wants. The tax revenues from this development would subsidize the extra cost of the bypass tunnel.

And NADA to tolls - we should "pay motorist" to ride on the BQE, not punish them as the idea is to get the through-traffic off our local streets (think!). And after all, there is a right of passage that should not be tolled - this is a social issue and must be paid for with taxes and clever subsidies like the Overhead Riverwalk above.

Think about it!
March 7, 2016, 11:02 am
Mike from Slope says:
Sean, the deliveries in the Slope generally come down 4th Ave., not the BQE. Or, from across a bridge and down Flatbush. Strangely, other neighborhoods like Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, Ditmas Park, and so on all get food delivered to grocery stores without being anywhere near the BQE, soon may it crumble.
March 7, 2016, 12:22 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:

Right. Local deliveries come down Fourth into the Slope. Do you really want all the additional trucks headed for further neighborhoods clogging up Fourth even more, or spilling onto Third, Fifth, Sixth, etc.? The trucks headed toward Bed-Stuy, Crown Heights, Ditmas Park, and Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Coney Island, etc. all use the BQE to circumvent the local streets in your neighborhood.

Yours is a very myopic understanding of the borough and the great need for these commercial highway routes.
March 7, 2016, 12:53 pm
Trollerskates from Moving Target says:
Once we ban private car ownership, there will be plenty of room on local streets for trucks. Close the BQE asap, before people are killed.
March 7, 2016, 1:03 pm
Guest from NYC says:
The MoveNY plan would help out in this situation.
March 7, 2016, 1:52 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:
The government can't ban private automobile ownership. It's protected under the Second Amendment.
March 7, 2016, 2:49 pm
Mike from Slope says:
Sean, less than 5% of the traffic on the BQE is the large trucks used for deliveries. The same goes for 4th Ave. Greatly discouraging private automobile use in the borough (especially on routes suburban commuters use like the BQE) would have a great effect on air pollution, noise pollution, and public safety. Your point exaggerates truck traffic.

Also, removing the BQE to reconnect lost neighborhoods like Red Hook and whatever you want to call where Industry City is would be a huge boon. It needs to go.
March 7, 2016, 4:05 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I take it most of you who either support tearing down the BQE or just placing more tolls obviously don't drive on a normal basis. I hate to break this to some of you, but this is a heavily used highway especially for commercial vehicles as are many other interstate highways. Where exactly are the commercial vehicles going to go to when this highway no longer exists. Many are against removing it altogether because it will mean that they will be going more on local streets and making those congested as well. Until there is a better way to transport good, the trucks will be needed. As for tolls, there are already tolls when leaving or entering the BQE for either the Triboro (RFK) Bridge, Queens-Midtown Tunnel, Brooklyn-Battery Park (Hugh Carey) Tunnel, and Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, so don't tell me people aren't paying tolls to enter and exit this highway. On a side note, I still believe the Mover NY Plan is just another way to punish those who have no choice but to get around faster by driving.
March 7, 2016, 4:06 pm
Sean F from Bensonhurst says:

Where did you get that 5% figure? I can't find it anywhere. The only figure I've found for BQE traffic was a 2002 study related to the Kozkiusko Bridge project, and that indicated 30% commercial traffic on the BQE.

As for "discouraging private automobile use in the borough", I'm doing my best to make sure that my kids have their own cars, so they can get (safely and timely) to and from all the amazing places in and around our city that public transportation can't get them. These days, it's not safe for young people (or old people) to ride the subways and buses alone, even during rush hour. And there's no reason to go somewhere for a good time, and be beholden to have to catch some late-night train home. Cars = Freedom.
March 7, 2016, 4:33 pm
TOM MURPHY from Sunset Park Lower(under I-278) says:
Lauren Gill, when you write a story about the "Department of Transportation" please specify whether it is the US-DOT, the NYS-DOT or the NYC-DOT. They are each involved here but in different ways. If I weren't really up on this I'd have given up understanding what you were attempting to describe.

Why must New York City act now to do what was and still is a New York State responsibility? Yes it was costly but the governor pulled the funding back in 2011 to put together the minimum money to get the Tappen Zee Bridge replacement started. What has changed; it's still a State job? What has the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, our metropolitan planning organization with the sole authority to direct where federal transportation funds are spent, announces a decision?

At the last meeting of the Transportation Committee of Community Board #7(Sunset Park/Windsor Terrace) the NYS-DOT team presented the next and the last part of the re-build of the Gowanus Expressway which involves only structural work. We asked if the 200-plus downspouts which drain rainwater directly on 3rd Avenue would be somehow mitigated due to its environmental damage. We really didn't get an answer. In answer to a specific question regarding the cosmetic repair(fill-in the missing cladding on the sides of what is the longest bridge in NYS that was ripped away to do needed structural work) and an eventual complete painting of the rusted-hulk we see every day, the NYS-DOT answered it had no funding for that and it would not happen. No money for a lighter-colored paint that would mitigate the dark and dismal underside(i.e., see the BQE on Park Ave in Williamsburg); not money for the same pea-green Robert Moses color; nothing! In other words, traffic flows merrily along up top with the new-seven travel lanes but the locals get to look at the rusted-hulk--forever.

While the State said their work on the Expressway will be finished after this structural iron work; well, it will never be finished. Brooklyn Heights, get ready.

I-278 which originates in Elizabeth, New Jersey, at the foot of the Goethals Bridge, and proceeds through Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx is a TRUCK ROUTE carrying cargo between the Mid-Atlantic states and New England east of the Hudson River. As such it is a through-route for traffic around the Central Business District (Manhattan). Together with I-95 in NJ it is the Ring Road around NYC. It's purpose is to take trucks and cars OFF the streets and away from the dense inner city. Any interruption of I-278 under Brooklyn Heights will be a disaster for all Brooklyn.
March 7, 2016, 4:49 pm
b from gp says:
Tunnel this,

Williamsburg and Greenpoint's waterfront upzoning FEIS combined sewer overflow calculations did not anticipate a future increase of rainfall.
March 7, 2016, 6:08 pm
Ace from Bath Beach says:
don't drive on a normal basis = New York City resident. Tear it down.
March 8, 2016, 12:26 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Just remember that if the BQE does get torn down and there is tons of commercial traffic as a result to that, we should all know who to place the blame on for that.
March 8, 2016, 4:43 pm
James from East New York says:
Ban private cars . Real funny . Reducing others quality of life just because you don't have a car . Small minded person .
March 8, 2016, 8:59 pm
Bklyn guy from outta town says:
Heres the facts , the BQE has been a total disaster since i was a teen in the 1970s , it still is and will always be , as far as the city fathers go nobody gives a S..t It is someones money pit they work and work and accomplish nothing , and someday when you get old and if you still live in this city[ God help you ] you will be echoing my words , It will never be done .Period .
March 8, 2016, 9:05 pm
Oh the corruption from Atlantic Yards says:
Sam Schwartz is making a ton of money advising Community Boards and Forest Ratner at Atlantic Yards. Meanwhile, heads should roll at state agencies like ESDC who continue to lie to the community.
March 8, 2016, 9:22 pm
Tyson White from Uws says:
When a road is always heavily congested, you toll the road. It's just common sense. The irony is that it's congested with drivers who are trying to EVADE tolls!

But of course, try finding elected officials willing to do what makes sense...
March 9, 2016, 7:27 am
Joe Finnerty from NYC says:
CB2 guy Rob Perris? Same guy who advocated for luxe housing inside Brooklyn Bridge Park making it impossible now that those condos are built to use Furman Street for BQE bypass? Most people URGED the city and state to do this work BEFORE the park got built (but Perris was not one of them). Damn shame, particularly now that it looks like the funds from many of these condos were not needed to fund the park after all.
March 9, 2016, 9:23 am
Katherine from New Haven says:
Dawn Doran(SORNA) and Luis C deBACA(SORNA) have no concern about the sex tourism involved at the Canne Film Festival.

Dawn Doran and Luis C deBaca have no concern about the hollywood producer who beat two prostitutes at the Canne Film Festival!
March 9, 2016, 2:06 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Some keep forgetting that although the BQE itself doesn't have any tolls, there are other places on the 1-278 that have them that include the Goethals, Verrazano-Narrows, and Triboro (RFK) Bridges, so in a way, this interstate highway route does already have tolls.
March 9, 2016, 4:25 pm
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from Bedford-Stuyvestant, Brooklyn, New York, United States says:
To make this debate really interesting in this comments section, especially on the BQE and how find certain ways to pay for these improvements, here is the link to a news segment on "National Infrastructure" from Last Week Tonight with John Oliver on YouTube: Disclaimer: I am not taking sides, so don't blame on me!
March 9, 2016, 4:25 pm
local130 from Lifer says:
Buzz off to the entitled Park Slope transplants and their 1st world problems. Additional tolls in NYC are not welcome! We all know if these crooks are given an inch they will take miles, hence toll increases out the window over time. The city is strapped? Why don't they dig into the MTA's billions that they pull in each day off the $16 Verrazzano or $8 tunnel tolls....
Aug. 1, 2016, 9:42 am

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