Expert panel recommends repairs and changes to BQE

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BROOKLYN — A busy stretch of roadway in New York City needs work.

A panel created by Mayor de Blasio in April 2019 has issued recommendations that include immediate repairs and reducing the number of lanes from six to four.

“The frightening truth is the triple cantilever section of the BQE is in dire condition and sections may become unsafe within the next five years. That’s why this Panel is calling for an immediate fix of this section of the roadway, prioritizing the safety of the public. In addition to this repair work, we need to explore every strategy to lower the number of vehicles on the road — of which there are far too many — to help extend the highway’s life, reduce crashes and begin transitioning commuters to other routes and modes of transit,” said Carlo A. Scissura, Chair, BQE Expert Panel, and President and CEO, New York Building Congress.

The panel says NYPD should enforce weight requirements and issue tickets. It rejected the plan to build a temporary highway at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade or Brooklyn Bridge Park.

Panelists called on the city, state and federal governments to create a “transformative plan“ that looks at the complete 20-mile corridor from Staten Island to Brooklyn to Queens.

Drivers have concerns that fewer lanes would mean traffic backups. Neighbors don’t want to see more cars on local streets.

The administration and city planners will review the recommendations.

Key Findings from the Report:

  • The Panel has worked with New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to collect new, more precise data that suggests that the presence of many overweight trucks and faster-than-expected deterioration may cause sections of the road to become unsafe and incapable of carrying current traffic within 5 years.
  • The cantilevered section of the BQE will need to be repaired immediately. DOT should redefine its program to be limited to a four-lane highway that will be capable of handling a traffic load adequate for the region, but with volumes slightly lower than current usage.
  • The Panel specifically rejects any proposal to build a temporary highway at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade or Brooklyn Bridge Park. Additional proposals to repair and improve the 1.5-mile project area have been made, but they are flawed: their capacity assumptions were incorrect, as they assumed maintaining existing volumes, they compromise adjacent public spaces in ways that are unacceptable, or they require levels of investment that are not realistic or equitable.

Report Recommendations:

  • DOT should immediately conduct all necessary maintenance and repair work based on the current condition of the roadway and should have every appropriate tool at its disposal to do the necessary work to keep the road safe and drivable.
  • Actions to mitigate the impact of traffic — both to extend the highway’s life and to facilitate a transition to a zero-growth traffic future — must also be undertaken right away. These include:
  • Immediately begin to enforce existing restrictions on overweight trucks and impose new restrictions on heavy trucks to extend the life of the current structure
  • Implement a comprehensive Transportation Management Plan (TMP) to address planned and unplanned changes in local and regional travel patterns that happen throughout the construction
  • Pricing strategies to reduce demand, such as congestion pricing and split tolling on the Verrazano Bridge are some of the most effective tools in achieving desirable traffic patterns
  • Closure and restrictions of ramps and connections to and from the BQE
  • Diversion to and management Brooklyn Battery Tunnel traffic
  • Permit small trucks on Belt Parkway
  • Create and support alternatives for local freight
  • Diverting some BQE traffic to the Williamsburg Bridge
  • Promote a regional dispersion of traffic
  • Transit Improvements to Reduce Demand on the BQE, including increasing the G-train capacity by greater frequency, and longer trains, completing the BQX, express service on the D, R and F lines, new ferry service and expanded use of express bus service
  • Work needs to be undertaken to immediately devise a broader transformation of the entirety of the BQE corridor from Staten Island to Queens. Any new, corridor-wide vision needs to be grounded in today’s transportation and sustainability goals – minimizing growth in road traffic, maximizing public transit usage, providing alternatives for local freight, protecting the environment and promoting quality of life in adjacent communities.
  • Given the need for multi-jurisdictional cooperation on both immediate next steps and a long-term vision, a joint working group of these three levels of government and community stakeholders along the corridor should be convened immediately to oversee both and move this corridor-wide project forward.

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