Cuomo Counsel: Ask and You Shall Receive Design/Build for BQE

The Daily News reports that Alphonso David, counsel to Governor Andrew Cuomo, in a letter to City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, has said that the Governor is eager to sponsor approval of a procedure called “design/build” for the needed reconstruction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway below Brooklyn Heights. Failure to provide such authorization would greatly extend the length of time to complete the project, and its expense. It could also cause the diversion of truck and other traffic to Brooklyn Heights streets.

So, what’s the problem with getting the Governor and the Legislature to approve this? According to David’s letter, it’s that the City has bundled its request for BQE design/build with design/build requests for two other projects: building new jails to replace Rikers and renovation of NYCHA housing. If each were presented individually, David wrote, the Governor would support them, and they would have a better chance of legislative approval.

Why, then does the Governor want projects, all of which he supports, presented à la carte instead of table d’hôte? For the Governor, I suspect, it’s to emphasize his and the legislature’s stranglehold on almost all city decisions, forcing the mayor and council to get state approval on virtually everything of substance. For the legislators, I believe, it’s to allow more scope for “horse trading”; e.g. “I’ll vote for your design/build on the BQE provided you vote for funding for my Waffle Iron Museum.”

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  • KXrVrii1

    This is obviously good news.

    But as for this quote:

    “Failure to provide such authorization would greatly extend the length of time to complete the project, and its expense. It could also cause the diversion of truck and other traffic to Brooklyn Heights streets.”

    I’m not sure how design / build will avoid the diversion of truck and other traffic. It may limit the time during which it occurs, but I don’t see how it is some magic cure-all that will prevent traffic overflows.

    It seems to me the best case scenario for traffic diversion is to mark certain larger streets in downtown Brooklyn as the preferred diversion routes. Maybe they could even designate Hicks, Henry, Clinton and Court as truck free during certain hours (but this would cause problems for local businesses who need truck deliveries, and if they do have a local business exceptions, means the overall rule would be hard to enforce.)

    But I’m not aware of any approach that would prevent cars from taking their own initiative to divert into Heights streets. And with apps like Waze, the effect could be exacerbated.

    So I think we have to resign ourselves to lots of construction noise and traffic for a good period of time…

  • Claude Scales

    The reason design/build could avoid diversion of trucks is that it would allow repairs to begin before deterioration of the roadway prevents keeping any lanes open during repair work. See

  • KXrVrii1

    Thanks, although that seems to just say that if construction isn’t done by 2026, then all trucks would have to be diverted regardless.

    My question is how they will complete the actual construction without closing down portions of the Heights BQE in at least one direction.

    Wth the Kosciusko bridge, they were able to buld the new bridge adjacent to the old one, so the old one could continue to be used. I’m not sure there is space for that in various places in the Heights.

    So it seems like best case is they do construction on one direction at a time, turning the other into a two-way route, which will still lead to a lot of traffic diversion through the Heights. And with some of the smaller bridges, I wonder if even that is possible.

  • Bob Grobe

    Dreaded by Drivers, Brooklyn-Queens Expressway Is Set for Repairs
    by Winnie Hu
    The New York Times, November 28, 2016

    “The construction is expected to last about five years. City transportation officials have reassured residents that part of the highway will remain open with the same number of lanes in each direction and that traffic will not be diverted to local streets — though they have not yet developed a detailed plan. They also said that part of the promenade would remain open.”

  • Banet

    My understanding is that they intend to build 3 additional temporary lanes above Furman Street. These would be adjacent to the lower level of the BQE — the southbound lanes. These new lanes would be used for the southbound traffic while rebuilding the southbound lanes. Then they’ll be used for the northbound traffic while rebuilding the northbound lanes.

    It sounds crazy but I was assured it will work.

  • KXrVrii1

    And, 2+ years since the quoted article, we’ve still not seen any of these magical “detailed plans” that will somehow ensure the same number of lanes will remain open in each direction.

  • Diesel

    Do you have links to any official documentation of such a plan? Seems kind of farfetched…

  • Bob Grobe

    At this point in time we have DOT’s public statements of intent but there is no formal plan—that will be part of the design process.

    City Says It’s Time To ‘Bite The Bullet’ & Fix Decaying BQE

    “Pandya promised on Tuesday that the DOT will keep traffic moving for the duration of construction, but insisted that it was too early to determine how this would be achieved. “We are definitely keeping three lanes of traffic open in both directions at all times,” she said. “We just have to figure out how we’re going to do it.” One option is a temporary, parallel structure supporting three lanes of traffic, jutting out over Furman Street. Another, somewhat contradictory, is weekend closures.”

  • Banet

    I dug through a lot of the related documents and saw mentions but nothing detailed. I suggest calling the BHA and asking if they can point you to anything.

    From what I can tell, it’s a stated plan, state engineers deem it possible, but it requires someone to bid on the project to deem it thoroughly possible.

  • Diesel

    I would think it would be a tight squeeze between 1 BBP and the BQE, and then there is the foot bridge…

  • Banet

    The footbridge isn’t an issue. The BQE isn’t cantilevered by then. It goes through an underpass/tunnel to the east of Squibb Park. Maybe it doesn’t need any substantial work there?

  • KXrVrii1

    Thanks for a link to an actual statement on the “temporary, parallel structure…”

    Still, especially with the “weekend closure” hedge, kind of feels like a plan to “beg forgiveness rather than ask permission.” I.e. when they get the bill for what it takes to avoid BH diversion, maybe diversion becomes a little more palatable.

  • Bob Grobe

    On a related matter in Sept. 2017 NYC/DOT awarded “Triple Cantilever Design JV” a $184,000,000 contract for “TOTAL DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION SUPPORT SERVICES…” AECOM, a global, publicly-held company is in the JV.

    The RFP contains a detailed four-year timeline (page 149) that will help us keep track of what’s going on.

    The award:

    The RFP:

  • Andrew Porter

    I strongly suspect that by the time construction finishes, most trucks will be electric, and a large percentage will be self-driving. So people can expect far less noise and fume pollution than now.

  • Diesel

    The upper deck is still cantilevered through the underpass. And there is still the clearance issue with 1 BBP. However, there is enough clearance between the upper deck and the building.

  • Diesel

    By the time this one is finished, trucks will be replaced by airborne drones and the highway will be obsolete.