After panel report, city announces new BQE repairs
by Benjamin Fang
Feb 06, 2020 | 2540 views | 0 0 comments | 145 145 recommendations | email to a friend | print
New York City is taking several steps to fix a crumbling portion of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) in Brooklyn.

On Friday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city will repair sections of the triple cantilever and the Hicks Street Wall, for which work will start in the spring and be complete by the end of the year.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) will begin the design process for the most damaged parts of the cantilever this summer. Construction is expected to by complete by the end of 2022.

The mayor also signed an executive order to create a new NYPD BQE Truck Enforcement Task Force. Starting on Monday, the unit will increase enforcement against illegal, overweight trucks that have exacerbated the BQE’s structural issues, the city said.

“The BQE is one of the main arteries of our city,” de Blasio said, “which is why we are immediately increasing enforcement against overweight trucks and addressing the highway’s most pressing structural issues.”

The city’s announcement came just days after an expert panel assembled by the mayor to address BQE rehabilitation released its final report.

In the report, BQE Expert Panel Chair Carlo Scisurra, who also serves as the president and CEO of the New York Building Congress, said the group did not propose one single solution or plan to rebuild the highway.

Instead, the panel identified the necessary steps to keep the current roadway safe and to extend its lifespan.

The report also lays out a “vision” that city, state and federal government officials can use to embark on a project to not just rehabilitate the 1.5-mile stretch, but transform the corridor as a whole.

The expert panel recommended monitoring the highway using different types of sensors, enforcing weight restrictions on trucks and reducing traffic from three lanes to two in each direction.

They also suggested that the city considers strategies or develops a plan to reduce traffic volumes by 15 percent or more, to about 125,000 vehicles per day.

Recommended strategies include closing or restricting ramps to and from the BQE, diversion to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel or the Williamsburg Bridge, and permitting small trucks on the Belt Parkway.

In a message sent to followers of the BQE Expert Panel, Scissura wrote that the report marks the end of the panel, but the beginning of the work that must be done.

“It will not be easy, and compromises will need to be made,” he wrote. “Significant levels of investment will undoubtedly be required, but there is no choice. We must come together and act now, kicking the can down the road is not an option.”

Under Executive Order 51, which creates the truck enforcement task force, DOT and NYPD will consider proposals to increase penalties for violations of weight restrictions on the BQE. They will also explore implementing automated enforcement.

Under federal legal guidelines, trucks along the BQE are limited to a maximum of 80,000 pounds, or 40 tons. Sensors have determined that some trucks that use the highway are as much as 170,000 pounds.

State law allows the NYPD to issue violations to overweight trucks, with penalties as high as $7,000 per violation.

As for the structural repairs, the DOT will perform immediate surface road work this spring, including milling and paving the roadway deck, replacing the mesh underneath the structure and repairing deck sections.

The city will also address the two 50-foot-long sections of the cantilever that the report said was deteriorating faster than previously expected.

Borough President Eric Adams said in a statement that the recommendations put forward by the expert panel deserve “serious consideration.”

He also warned that the weight restrictions should not have unintended consequences, such as pushing truck traffic onto nearby side streets.

Councilman Stephen Levin also expressed his approval of the overweight truck enforcement and improvements.

“We need to continue to bring everyone together to plan for the future of the BQE corridor that supports communities,” Levin said.
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