After years of deliberations, Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday finally announced new proposals to fix a crumbling stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway in Brooklyn Heights.
The city Department of Transportation unveiled three options and is seeking feedback from the public. Each one would place the roadway in a slightly different position, leaving room to cap the highway with new greenspace. Each option would still have two lanes of traffic and leave a third lane for either a breakdown lane or for high occupancy vehicles.
“Now is the time to think big. We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a BQE for the 21st century and transform an environmental and aesthetic nightmare into a dream come true for our city,” Adams said in a statement Tuesday. “This is just step one. But these concepts push the boundaries and fully explore what is possible for BQE Central, and we are excited to hear from New Yorkers as we determine which one will become a reality.”
Transportation officials said one of the main constraints of any design is a nearby MTA fan plant, which prevents them from planning any underground roadway.
One of the proposals would completely replace the retaining wall that’s crumbling on the side of the highway, but would be a more costly project and take more time.
Another proposal would lower the stretch of the BQE near ground level with Furman Street.
The section that needs replacement is known as the “triple cantilever.” It’s a 1.5-mile stretch of highway tucked beneath Brooklyn Heights dating back to the 1940s. Robert Moses built the stretch, which was considered an engineering marvel at the time, during his push to create more car infrastructure in New York.
Decades of wear and tear have engineers fearing it will crumble. The DOT warned in 2018 that if nothing was done it may be unusable by 2026.
The conditions prompted officials under former Mayor Bill de Blasio to propose a drastic overhaul that would have included the construction of a temporary highway atop the Brooklyn Heights promenade, closing the attraction for six years. The move led to intense community pushback in 2018 that sent planners back to the drawing board.
Towards the end of de Blasio’s administration, officials opted for short term solutions to buy more time — including reducing the stretch of highway from two to three lanes and ticketing oversized trucks. DOT is planning what officials call “urgent repairs” to the triple cantilever starting next year. The work includes replacing crumbling concrete and using epoxy to fill cracks.
DOT officials on Tuesday said oversized trucks will begin getting warning tickets in the New Year. They didn’t say when full ticketing would begin.
Before the pandemic the city estimated there were 155,000 vehicles a day on the BQE, 18,000 of which are considered “heavy” trucks.
After the plan to close the promenade was withdrawn, advocates for the construction industry and elected officials put out more ambitious plans, including ones to cap the stretch with a park or close it to car traffic altogether.
Officials declined to detail how the three new proposals would impact the surrounding neighborhood.
A timeline for when construction might be completed also wasn’t disclosed.
The DOT is holding workshops with the public through March of next year and is hoping to apply for federal infrastructure funding in the spring.
The DOT will hold several more workshops on the proposals in the coming months. The next one is on Thursday.