Can you dig it? Residents: Tear down Heights BQE and build a tunnel!

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The city shouldn’t repair the crumbling stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway that hangs below the Brooklyn Heights Promenade — it should knock the whole shoddy structure down and make a lasting investment in a sturdy tunnel instead, locals told Department of Transportation honchos at a meeting on Wednesday night.

“I do believe the tunnels are the best solution, money-wise,” said Bill Harris, who sits on the local community board’s transportation committee. “That’s the best way to put our money to work.”

City officials came to rap with locals about their plans to finally fix the dangerously old triple cantilever bridge that controversial city planner Robert Moses rammed through the neighborhoods in the 1940s, which they say will keep it from collapsing for another 75 years.

But residents demanded they think beyond putting the antique on life support, and reconsider the entire thoroughfare altogether.

“Why are we wedded to this idea of an elevated highway which killed a neighborhood and is difficult to maintain?” said one longtime local who claimed she remembers when the cantilever was built and it was “a piece of junk” then, too.

The transportation bigwigs said they’ve already thought of the tunnel idea, however, and found it would not only blow their budget, the roadway is in such bad shape, they don’t have the time to burrow.

“It sounds lovely. I would love it if we could build a tunnel and tear down the BQE, restore the neighborho­od,” said department czar Polly Trottenberg. “But we need to be real about the challenges of tunneling.”

In order to accommodate the sea of traffic that traverses the lofted roadway each day, the city would need to build two tunnels with four travel lanes apiece, according to project manager Tanvi Pandya.

And even if the city had the dough to pay for them, engineers found that it would be difficult to construct a route that connected to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges while avoiding subway and water tunnels, Pandya said.

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

Me from Bay Ridge says:
It would be easier to put the Gowanus under Third Avenue and they're not doing that, so I don't think a tunnel in Brooklyn Heights can be justified.
June 30, 2016, 10:13 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
This quote sticks out like a sore thumb. “I do believe the tunnels are the best solution, money-wise,” because the tunnel would be expensive, as someone who actually knows about anything, Polly Trottenberg said. But we have these stupid community boards composed of know-nothings who string together random words.

I think that if we replaced community boards with a small committee of monkeys with typewriters, NYC would be governed better.
June 30, 2016, 10:34 am
billy says:
Generalize much, Mike? The only reason Bill Harris is on the community board is because he is married to Assemblywoman Simon and Borough President Adams and Councilman Levin are afraid to remove him. The quote is hilarious, however. 'The best solution is the most expensive and longest and most difficult to build.'
June 30, 2016, 10:50 am
Mike from Park Slope says:
It's funny because the section that is proposed for the tunnel is actually the LEAST intrusive on the neighborhood (i.e. Brooklyn Heights)

The parts south of there - Cobble Hill/Gowanus/Sunset Park burying the BQE would be a huge gain for the neighborhoods.

Same with Williamsburg and up.

Summary: Bury the whole damm thing. Sell the land on top to fund the project.
June 30, 2016, 11:13 am
JQjr from Cobble Hill says:
Absolutely, a tunnel, no question.

(heading northerly...) It would go under ground continuing from the existing sub-grade section south of Atlantic Ave and re-emerge with direct shoots to each of the two bridges (Brooklyn & Manhattan) and continue fully above ground at the straightaway around Navy St. Traffic congestion eliminated, communities reconnected and cleaner air for our communities by exhaust capture/filtering. Even the "ditch" could be covered in this plan thereby pulling the auto exhaust from there onto the purification system of the tunnel and connecting three other neighborhoods.

Then instead of tearing down the cantilevered portion, we turn it into a "Double Tier Riverwalk" with restaurants, shops and the like throughout. Glass tube elevators and both open and covered foot bridges would bring people up and down to Brooklyn Bridge Park and the new BQX.

This is our opportunity not to just go with a fix, but to set the stage for the world to know how great a city Brooklyn has returned to be.

The second coming of Brooklyn!
June 30, 2016, 11:35 am
LG from Bensonhurst says:
So let's inject some real numbers, instead of just repeating nonsense sprouted by a random know-nothing:

The Alaskan Way viaduct replacement tunnel will cost approximately $2 billion per mile, assuming no further cost overruns, cave-ins, or tunnel floods. It will replace the Alaskan Way, which is an urban viaduct similar to the BQE, with a tunnel.

A straight-line tunnel under downtown Brooklyn, bypassing the curve around the waterfront, as pictured in the article's image, will be about 2.8 miles long. That means it will cost, at best, approximately $5.6 billion -- or $5,600,000,000 if fully written out, again assuming no massive cost overruns.

Or we can spend a pittance of that fantastic sum, demolish the elevated segment of the BQE as far as Verrazano Bridge, and replace it with a boulevard . We have already had an identical highway removal forty years ago, when the West Side Highway collapsed in Manhattan. There was no traffic apocalypse during the ten years it took to clear the wreckage. Everyone adapted, there was no gridlock on the street grid, and the highway was replaced with the current boulevard at a cost of $83 million per mile, or about 4% of the cost of a tunnel. The massive increase in land value more than paid for the boulevard.

Now imagine what we could do with $5,000,000,000 saved by building a boulevard instead of a useless tunnel for truck drivers trying to save a few bucks by using the 'free' East River bridges.
June 30, 2016, 5:55 pm
Bill from Fulton Ferry says:
I have to laugh at the revisionist history, both in this article and at the meeting itself. Robert Moses did not ram the triple cantilever roadway "through" the neighborhood; his plan was to continue the trench that exists today south of Atlantic, straight down Hicks Street THROUGH the Heights. It was a Heights resident who proposed the cantilevered design with the Promenade on top, because he feared losing his private gardens unless a two-tiered roadway was built.
July 1, 2016, 3 am
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
I'd love to see that happen. Finally a significant step in undoing the horrible damage caused by Robert Moses.
July 1, 2016, 11:09 am
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
with all due respect to Bill Harris, building a tunnel wound be both monumentally difficult and astronomically expensive. There are at least 5-6 subway tunnels that run under the streets to the east river at the point in question. ACFMR1245. There are large immovable water tunnels countless sewers electrical and telephone lines and literally god knows what else. East side access to the Grand Central cost over 10 Billion dollars. the cheapest way would be a six lane cut and cover cut down furhman street and under Brooklyn heights(rebuild the promenade too and down Water street....but there is no chance that will be done thru Dumbo maybe 40 years ago but not now.
July 1, 2016, 12:31 pm
Sid from Boerum Hill says:
the west side highway never carried trucks. Its collapse was caused by a truck that was not supposed to be there.
July 1, 2016, 12:33 pm
sid from boerum hill says:

no subways makes it much easier.
July 1, 2016, 1:05 pm
Buck from Bay Ridge says:
Build the five billion dollar tunnel. We can contract the work to local businesses.
July 1, 2016, 10:19 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I feel that this is a bad idea and will be seen as a boondoggle. Keep in mind what happened to the Big Dig over in Boston shortly after it was built. That tunnel was leaking, which could hint that workers were cutting corners just to finish it faster, and I fear the same could happen with this one as well. BTW, what would happen for those that need to use the Brooklyn-Battery Park Tunnel, Brooklyn Bridge, or Manhattan Bridge with this tunnel? Will they still have the access or will they have to exit off and use local streets for that or will there be some passageway for those? I still think that renovating the BQE is a better idea and much cheaper compared to this. More importantly, it was the neighborhood that didn't want a trenched highway to begin with, plus most Brooklyn Heights residents don't even see the highway considering where its placed, which is by the cliff.
July 5, 2016, 5:26 pm

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