BQE Panel Report Released to BHA, Other Community Groups

Our friends at the Brooklyn Heights Association, along with other interested community groups, met with the expert panel appointed by Mayor de Blasio today, and received the panel’s recommendations concerning rehabilitation of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. The BHA quoted the conclusions to the Panel’s report as follows:

An immediate fix for the roadway, prioritizing the safety of the public, should begin now.  This is based on the Panel’s new, more precise data that suggests sections of the road may become unsafe and incapable of carrying current traffic within five years.

Actions to reduce traffic volumes and improve reliability – to extend the highway’s life, reduce crashes and begin transitioning users to other routes or modes of transportation – must be undertaken right away.

Planning for a corridor-wide vision must begin now, incorporating modern transportation and sustainability ideals while balancing the physical needs of a deteriorating roadway, with the goal of a new, comprehensive road connecting Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.

This is pretty much what was earlier reported to be the panel’s anticipated recommendations. There’s a link to the full report here. Kudos to the BHA, A Better Way NYC, the Cobble Hill Association, local elected officials, and others for their effective advocacy.

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  • gc

    In the Executive Summary of the report they
    “specifically reject any proposal to build a temporary highway at the Brooklyn Heights Promenade or Brooklyn Bridge Park.”

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    1) Don’t mistake this poor excuse for “recommendations” for something with much significance. The Mayor is a lame duck, and while Hillary may be wrong about nobody liking Bernie, it’s more than plausible that “nobody (pretty much) likes diBlasio.” Getting the DOT on the same page with the panel, when the Mayor has gone from “suck it up, Heights” to does-anybody-know? – is no easy feat. Then add a Council clearly ready to maybe take a different tack and the need for approval of reducing lanes on Interstate 278 from somebody reporting to Trump! As long as there’s time and a road to kick the can down, there’s no telling how this will play out.

    2) Read it and … scratch your head: [of course, the BHA may have neither read carefully nor “summarized” capably]:

    [Claude seems to be quoting the BHA here.] “Actions to reduce traffic volumes and improve reliability – to extend the highway’s life, reduce crashes and begin transitioning users to other routes or modes of transportation – must be undertaken right away.

    “Planning for a corridor-wide vision must begin now, incorporating modern transportation and sustainability ideals while balancing the physical needs of a deteriorating roadway, with the goal of a new, comprehensive road connecting Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens.”

    What the heck does “transitioning users to other routes” mean, and the 2nd paragraph is … word soup.

  • TeddyNYC

    They probably would have to weigh them in NJ. It’s a mess from top to bottom.

  • CassieVonMontague

    My takeaways from the report:

    1. A study of Queens-bound traffic showed 11% of trucks were illegally overweight. Some were twice the limit. (pg 12)

    2. The structure currently has a capacity of 4,500 vehicles per hour per direction. The study estimates that reducing to two lanes will only reduce capacity to 4,000 vehicles per hour per direction because of new shoulders and acceleration lanes. (pg 18)

    3. The report recommends closing or restricting the Atlantic Avenue entrance, the Hicks St entrance, and the Cadman Plaza exit, the one that merges onto the north end of Hicks St. (pg. 20).

  • Reggie

    ‘No one can agree on what should be done with the 1.5 mile Triple Cantilever so let’s expand the scope of the project to 18 miles.’ Seems counter-intuitive to me but I guess that is the definition of “thinking outside the box.”

  • CassieVonMontague

    De Blaiso has already voiced opposition to reducing lanes on Brain Lehrer this morning.

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    Those are certainly some salient points. I guess my biggest issues are 2 – “social engineering” and an insular mentality that Trump would love – “Because we say so! … We’ll go with ‘alternative facts’ if need be.”

    Specifically, I recognize that people who hate cars find it easy to go with “make driving more expensive and/or less pleasant and fewer people will drive.” And that reasoning seems to apply (in their heads) to TRUCKS, too.

    Apart from messy politics – motorists vote, probably, at higher levels than non-motorists – no one can point to more than 1 or 2 *somewhat* comparable situations. WE – unlike some of those – are constrained by far-from-great mass transit AND an absence of viable alternate routes.

    Tell the biggest trucks, “Stay off our roads,” and you’ll likely have some nasty consequences. Ditto, telling all drivers – “from now on, Bay Ridge-to-Manhattan via the BQE is going to force you on to city streets for a half hour of idling 10 times (rush hours) a week.” That’ll do wonders for air quality!

    Why no mention of a more sensible game-changer – tolling the B. & M. Bridges? (And wouldn’t LOWERING the toll to take the “Bklyn Battery Tunnel” cut the shaky cantilever’s traffic way down?)

  • CassieVonMontague

    Are you asking me why I didn’t mention the tolling? Or are you asking if the report suggested this? (Yes)

    More generally, I have usually have a hard time understanding your posts. So I’m sorry if I don’t respond appropriately.

  • A Neighbor

    Nice report. Yes, to keeping the Promenade, traffic reduction measures. Neither did they pass the buck in recommending a broader panel – you can’t reduce the cantilever portion to 2 lanes without considering the same for other portions of the BQE.

    Disappointed that they didn’t offer a traffic solution during repairs. It seems to make sense to ban left turns off Atlantic, yes? Drivers who want to take the bridge to Manhattan or continue on the BQE can turn left on Boerum Place, which accommodates heavy traffic, unlike Hicks and Clinton.

    Question – if the BQE is reduced to 2 lanes with a shoulder, does that mean the road will qualify for federal funds? I understood that the lack of a shoulder on the present road was the disqualifier.

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    The report DOES get pretty detailed – to its credit – about both short- and long-term alternatives! And YES, it focuses on what the currently untolled Bklyn and Manh. Bridges do by way of “attracting” traffic to the cantilevered stretch. But it nowhere explicitly addresses the possibility/VALUE of “tolling them.” Instead, they point to a projected modest (10% or so) reduction in BQE/BH traffic (obviously “ground zero” in terms of the problem) when congestion pricing goes into effect.

    My point is the combination of urgency and many billions projected on the various “fixes” sure seems to me like a time when all involved should be focused on fast-tracking measures (like 2 new tolls) that will almost literally buy us time.

    Cuomo has signaled REDUCED aid to NYC, so we’re looking at a combination of RE tax increases, income or sales tax increases and fees paid by cars & trucks to pay for it all. (Bonds?) … Meanwhile, the report points out that the BBT has a height limitation AND it has “covenants” pertaining to the bonds that got it built that limit what can be done to tolls.

  • Still Here

    It was a real disappointment.

  • CassieVonMontague

    De Blasio says oversize truck fines will start on Monday, with fines up to $7000 per violation.

  • Steve

    This plan will cause incredible traffic jams on BQE and Brooklyn bridge and clog up the streets of Brooklyn Heights & Cobble Hill.

  • Edo Express

    You (and the mayor’s radio statements this morning) are dead are wrong. Historically the data show that when you reduce roads or impose tolling that “carmageddon” does NOT materialize, but rather a reduction in traffic does.
    After the 14th street ban on drivers, despite hysterical predictions of traffic jams on the streets surrounding 14th street, it did not happen. So please get your facts straight and let’s stick with evidence-based statements and debates.

    Seattle’s closure of the viaduct is a classic example of this.

  • Edo Express

    True and welcomed but, despite acknowledging the formidable challenge in space and logics to repair the cantilever system, they failed to provide specifics on how to address this, which is what the temporary highway (parallel or on promenade) was intended to do.

  • Claude Scales

    I’ve corrected the post to reflect that the BHA was quoting the conclusions to the Panel’s report. I wanted to get something up quickly, so did not take the time to read the full report before posting. My bad.

  • BrooklynHeightzer

    Not to argue with anyone, but I would take this comparison with a healthy amount of skepticism, firstly streets and highways have different traffic patterns, then one should also take into account the geographical distribution and relative proximity (to BH) of various businesses, airports, port terminals, commercial, fulfillment and shopping centers to get a better picture of how this plan would impact traffic flow and congestion in BH and surrounding areas. One conclusion can be drawn, however, the plan, if implemented, will have a negative impact on BH. The question is what would be the extent of the impact.

  • Nomcebo Manzini

    And the companion questions are:

    a) Are there benefits to the CITY that so far outweigh the ill effects locally that “an objective person” WOULD say, “Overruled!” ?

    b) Would any other proposal do less harm to BH and be arguably equal to or superior to this plan on other salient bases?

    My quick stab at the 2nd says that Carl tipped his had VERY early (in this long process) that (a) the Promenade route was not gonna happen; and (b) BBP was off limits. The final report said, “Any construction in the Park would hurt the Heights.” It’s a wonderful amenity, I agree, but that “not an inch” approach reminds me of Israel/Palestine, where each group has plenty of “Just us, from the Jordan to the Med.” proponents. Makes no sense there, and Carl’s taking away the only viable “let’s NOT pit the motorists against the Heights” option … will be re-visited by “players” like the City Council I predict.

  • Proto Plano

    Street vs highway has nothing to do with it. Many traffic and urban planning studies now accept that if you reduce demand by either lane reduction, tolling or congestion charges, traffic and congestion is reduced. Nor does it lead to a flood of cars on roads just next to those road. The Seattle viaduct, which carried 90,000 cars per day, is a classic example of reduced demand and disappearing cars and traffic. You don’t have to take my word for it, just take 5 minutes to read about it yourself.

  • BrooklynHeightzer

    Most trips people take are need based because they have to get from point A to point B, there are, of course, people who take joy rides and pleasure trips….but most people travel because they have to: If you need to go to Los Angeles you probably won’t seat back and say to yourself, “well, now that there are only 2 lanes on BQE, no way I i’m gonna go to JFK”

  • Arch Stanton

    Uh No. Cities like Seattle, Atlanta etc, are not equal comparisons to the NYC and the greater area.
    First, we have much greater population and population density. Second, we are mostly a city of islands our highways are restricted by bridge and tunnel, pinch points. Also we have far less highways compared to our population/density. Look at a map of those smaller cities and see how many other highways there are available to absorb traffic from the touted closure.
    Then look at a map of NYC and the greater area and see that there are really no other highways to absorb traffic. All our bridges and tunnels are already stressed to the max.
    We have 10 times the population with 3 times less highways. What worked there won’t work here.

  • Arch Stanton

    Except that those 90k cars didn’t “disappear”. they simply rerouted to the several other available highways in the area. An option we don’t have here.

  • Arch Stanton

    Even a broken clock is right twice a day.

  • Jorale-man

    While I agree that it’s a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, it’s worth noting that NYC also has a much more extensive public transit system than Atlanta, Seattle and other US cities. Not the most modern (or clean) system, but it does cover a lot of territory, and some of these drivers could leave the cars home and take the bus or train.

  • Proto Plano

    Yes, but there are multiple alternative ways to get to JFK by road without the BQE or if you are brave enough to take the A train to the AirTrain.

  • Proto Plano

    Thanks for your opinion, but I will follow the fairly convincing body of analysis from appendix 2 “Traffic Measures to Reduce Demand” from the BQE panel’s report. Would love to know what in that portion of the report you think is flawed?

  • BrooklynHeightzer

    You hit the nail on the head – you won’t drive on the cantilever section of BQE… you will drive up Henry street.

  • BrooklynHeightzer

    I couldn’t have said it better. Also add to this the fact that now we are all equipped with google maps that very efficiently find the best routes to avoid traffic and congestion points, these routes often pass through city streets.

  • Arch Stanton

    Exactly, the most reliable way to JFK from here is up Atlantic Ave. It’s not necessary the fastest route but consistent, under an hour every time.

  • Cranberry Beret

    The report anticipates this. It refers to closing local on-ramps & off-ramps to prevent spillover and end-runs. I’m not saying the ramp closures are as likely as the 4 lane plan being implemented (however likely that is), but it’s not as if the report’s authors simply think lane reduction is enough.