Imagine a scenario where 15,000 trucks are rerouted off the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) onto local streets in Brooklyn. This 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. After studying the issue, and securing “design-build” authorization DOT released its plan and were ready to begin construction. Then all hell broke loose.
Locals, advocates, and politicians were enraged about everything from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade being out of commission for years, to there being a temporary highway, to a highway being reconstructed as a highway in the first place. As such Mayor Bill de Blasio decided to appoint a blue ribbon panel of experts to asses various plans, engage stakeholders and advise DOT on the best course of action. The panel has been meeting since April and all indications are that they are close to a recommendation.
This timeline looks to be pushed back yet again as the City Council, in an unusual move, has hired the engineering and design firm Arup to provide independent, outside expertise on the project. It is possible, though by no means certain, that DOT and the City Council will be pushing for two different BQE projects. If that is the case, the timeline will be pushed even further, with the specter of the BQE project being an issue in the 2021 Mayoral race. Perhaps things will be cleared up when the panel makes their recommendation. Maybe Arup and the panel share the same vision. Arup has worked with DOT before so there is some familiarity there. Right now though, everything is up in the air except for the fact that DOT will ban trucks from the BQE by 2026 if reconstruction is not complete. The clock is ticking.