Pump the gas! Officials demand legislation to accelerate BQE repairs

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Call it a fury road.

State lawmakers must pass legislation to speed up the reconstruction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway by three years and save the city $300 million before the legislature lets out for summer in June, officials demanded at a press conference in front of the crumbling roadway on June 2.

A bill in the state Assembly would authorize New York City to use a streamlined process called “design build” to speed up the project by combining the bidding for design and construction, as opposed to the current practice of giving contracts to separate firms for each phase. And there’s no time like the present to do so, according to local pols.

“It’s time for the state to authorize design build in order to streamline the City’s construction process and save both time and money to rebuild the BQE triple-cantilever and other critical infrastructure projects,” said Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon (D–Cobble Hill).

The city is paying $1.9 billion to fix the 1.5-mile stretch of the decrepit expressway between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street, and kicked off the project with a series of public meetings last summer. In those sessions, the transportation department’s commissioner said design build would accelerate the revamp of the 70-year-old span, which is scheduled to begin in 2024 and end in 2029, but could start as early as 2021 and finish by 2026 if the process is approved.

The approach is cheered for its ability to speed up and shave money from big projects. And if there are any mistakes, there is one person to complain to, instead of separate contractors.

Opponents of design build argue that the process could make it easier for private contractors to cut corners in pursuit of profits, and claim the approach limits a client’s involvement in the design phase and encourages contractors to operate outside their areas of expertise.

The state has authorized design build for several of its own projects, including the new Kosciuszko Bridge, but never for a city-led job. And the expressway revamp is such a massive project that no entity would dare to try it without streamlining the process, according to the transportation department head.

“The BQE is overdue for rehab — critical and complex work that no one in the world would take on without design build,” said commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

The bill is sponsored by state Sen. Marty Golden (R–Bay Ridge) and would grant New York City the right to use design build on seven other projects across the city, in addition to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

But the clock is ticking to approve it, as the legislature lets out on June 21.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
Updated 5:58 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Mike from Williamsburg says:
What a missed opportunity to tear it down.
June 5, 2017, 8:04 am
Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. from BS, BK, NY, US, formerly from WB, BK, NY, US says:
Bureaucracy by our elected officials, corruption by the unionized bosses, contractors and subcontractors and dysfunction by the transportation agencies, a atypical combination against us taxpayers.
June 5, 2017, 10:18 am
Ace from Bath Beach says:
Tear it down. The future and it is not full of pollution spewing death machines.
June 5, 2017, 10:30 am
C.W. McCall says:
Mike, where are the 140,000 vehicles, many of them trucks, going to go instead?
June 5, 2017, 10:41 am
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
All those vehicles will magically disappear. However, you will have to ride your cargo bike down to the waterfront to pick up any items you might need, including furniture, appliances, etc. It will be hipster utopia!
June 5, 2017, 11:35 am
Sid from Boreum hill says:
Build the cross harbor tunnel open up the Sunnyside yards for freight and then maybe you can put the road underground 2 30 years until then you need to repair the bqe. 40 billion or so dollars too.
June 5, 2017, 12:23 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleaantville, NY says:
Although tearing down the BQE may seem like a good idea at first, I would really like to know what will happen to all the vehicles that use it on a normal basis for that especially commercial vehicles, who can't go anywhere else. There are already neighborhoods in that area that have high asthma rates and relocating all that traffic to local roads will just make them worse. Do any of you advocates for this actually think this one through first? My guess is none of you did, which is why you pretty much lost for the same reasons on trying to tear down the Sheridan Expressway over in The Bronx. The main reason why so many highways in NYC like the BQE will remain intact is because there is still a demand for moving traffic efficiently just for the same reason why NYC still has so many housing projects that having been torn down in the demand for affordable housing.
June 5, 2017, 5:37 pm
Frank from furter says:
Lol...the bqe and efficient moving transportation is an oxymoron.
June 5, 2017, 7:01 pm
Mike from Williamsburg says:
Yes, Frank. That was an unusually silly claim, even from a consistently silly person.
June 5, 2017, 7:45 pm
Ted from Edison says:
There goes the neighborhood!
June 5, 2017, 9:14 pm
Winnie from Williamsburg says:
It should be converted to an elevated bike-lane instead. That would really serve the needs of the bicycle community and remove the cars.
June 6, 2017, 5:30 am
Matt from Greenpoint says:
We don't need no stinking expressway.
Amazon will bring us our food and stuff with drones.
June 6, 2017, 11:32 am
Matt from Greenpoint says:
I would not want to see how fast the economy of NYC would collapse under the control of the anti-automobile cabal.

Just because they cannot pass a driving test (never mind the cars drive and park themselves nowadays) or afford a car, they think everyone else's rights should be taken away... disgusting little fascist snowflakes.
June 6, 2017, 11:40 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I hate to break this to you anti-car fanatics, but tearing down the BQE just isn't going to happen. Doing this is completely unrealistic and most likely highly opposed. More importantly, did any of you think about how to relocate all that traffic once it gets torn down? My guess is that you didn't. If you think that local roads are bad now, they will only get worse, which is why that highway needs to be repaired. Until there is a viable alternative for the BQE, it's not going anywhere.
June 6, 2017, 5:20 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I wouldn't be surprised if most of those who want the BQE torn down don't drive on a normal basis otherwise they would understand why it should stay.
June 7, 2017, 5:23 pm

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