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 for the BQE rehabilitation project 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 to discuss the BQE rehabilitation project and was supposed to issue a report in the summer.
This timeline was 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.
Recently though the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the situation at the BQE is far more dire than originally believed and that 2026 date must be moved up to 2021. Now Politico is reporting that in a leaked draft, not only does the panel not recommend a solution but they want to create yet another panel, made up of city, state and federal representatives, to both deal with the immediate concerns surrounding the 1.5 mile BQE stretch from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street, as well as, envision a broader plan for the entire corridor from Staten Island to Queens. The “Big Dig” type of scenario would push this timeline back even further when time is clearly of the essence.