15,000 trucks rerouted off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) into local streets in Brooklyn would be an unmitigated disaster. Yet, that is looking like a serious possibility. The NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) has indicated that the expressway has deteriorated to the point that if repairs are not completed by 2026 they will be forced to ban trucks from the 1.5 mile BQE stretch from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street. The portion includes a series of 21 concrete and steel bridges over local roads, along with what is called the “triple cantilever,” which stacks two roadways beneath the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
City DOT believes the best option for completing the necessary BQE Rehabilitation Project is to use design-build. Design-build is a method that uses one entity with one contract to provide both design and construction services. As opposed to the typical design-bid-build model which uses separate designers and construction services, with multiple contracts.
Design-build has become a popular method of choice throughout the country as it results in both cost savings and time reductions. In New York, the design-build process has successfully been used on major projects, such as the Tappan Zee and Kosciuszko Bridges, both of which resulted in cost savings to the state.
Now, here is where the fun begins. New York City can not use design-build without approval from New York State, approval which has yet to be granted. Though there are some concerns with the legislation from an industry perspective, such as the use of project-labor agreements (PLAs), requiring the use of union firms on the project. If design-build is good enough for the State of New York and the agency overseeing the project wants design-build, shouldn’t they be allowed to use it?
As such, in February, Co-Publisher Zach Miller joined State Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon at a press conference to encourage Governor Andrew Cuomo to authorize design-build for the BQE Rehabilitation Project. Senator Kavanagh and Assemblywoman Simon are championing this legislation in Albany and they assembled a group of local politicians, community advocates, and business interests to make the case for design-build.
Without design-build, DOT anticipates construction on the project would last until at least 2028, thus requiring banning trucks in 2026. They believe they will shave three years off the project and save $113 million with the project.
Diverting 15,000 trucks (300 tractor trailers per hour during the midday rush) on local streets is a serious safety risk. Trucks belong on the expressway and should remain there. The city must be allowed to make the necessary improvements to this critical component of the freight network. Design-build is what is best for safety, best for freight, and best for business.