DOT Reveals New BQE Plans

As we noted a week ago, the City Department of Transportation has new plans for the reconstruction of the BQE Central, the cantilevered portion of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway that runs below Brooklyn Heights, from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street, and would hold two public forums, one in person on June 20, and one on Zoom on Monday evening, June 24. Mary Frost, of the Brooklyn Eagle, attended the in person Thursday event, and we attended yesterday evening’s Zoom event. These are our take-aways from both events:

1. Nothing is set in stone yet. The latest DOT design (see image, courtesy of the DOT), which would stack the Queens bound and Staten Island bound roadways above and below each other, thereby freeing up more space for Furman Street below, is subject to public review, and may be modified or changed completely.

2. No reconstruction work is likely before 2029. According to DOT’s Julie Bero, an environmental assessment will begin in 2025. A draft may be completed and released for review and comments by the end of that year, and a final Environmental Impact Statement should be complete by 2027. Bidding for construction contracts will begin in 2018, and construction in 2029. Asked how long construction might last, Bero said DOT wouldn’t give an estimate, but her best guess was about ten years.

3. The illustration above is based on a configuration of two lanes of highway in each direction. No decision has been made on whether the rebuilt BQE will have two or three lanes in each direction. That will be determined by the result of traffic studies. Governor Hochul’s decision to suspend congestion pricing may affect the outcome.

4. The DOT proposal, if constructed, would require demolition of the Brooklyn Heights Promenade during construction, and its replacement “in kind” upon completion. Bero said DOT would try to do the demolition and construction along the length of the Promenade in stages, so that some portion of the Promenade would remain open at all times during construction.

5. During the discussion period, several people expressed concerns about environmental issues: air pollution, noise, and vibrations. Michael Stein, of schlaich bergermann partner, Stuttgart, Germany, consultants to the DOT, said it may be possible to install sound absorbing panels inside the structure containing the BQE. The other environmental concerns should be addressed in the draft EIS, which will be open to public comment before the EIS is finalized.

6. One matter that seems, in our view, not well addressed by DOT, is the question of where traffic will go during the likely ten year construction period. There was mention of a parallel bypass highway above Furman Street, but also noted that there are “pinch points” at the north and south ends of the cantilevered BQE’s course that cause problems. This is somehing that will need further consideration.

7. A repeated theme during the discussion was, “Why rebuild a relic of Robert Moses’ 1950s auto and truck centric view of intra-city transportation? Why not look at alternatives such as water transport and shifting loads to smaller vehicles for ‘the last mile?’ Why not improve and expand public transit?”

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  • Banet

    If indeed the Promenade has to close for a decade, hopefully it’s in 1 or 2 block sections at a time.

  • Arch Stanton

    "The latest DOT design (see image, courtesy of the DOT), which would stack the Queens bound and Staten Island bound roadways above each other, thereby freeing up more space for Furman Street below, is subject to public review, and may be modified or changed completely"

    This is exactly how the existing highway is configured, why do they try to make it sound as if they are planning something different? I don't see any alternative either, given the space constraints.

  • MaggieO

    this is the thing that has me questioning reality. are they just talking about stacking the lanes closer to Atlantic? are they really anticipating a response of "oh wow, what a great idea"????? If the directions weren't stacked already we wouldn't have a triple cantilever to begin with!

  • Tinn

    My understanding in the meeting was that there were a few other designs (terraced, stooped) that are still in play, and then they added this one that is just a slimmer version of the current layout.

  • B.

    They are stacked, but the lanes heading to Queens are recessed while the lanes heading to the Prospect jut out (so to speak). If they played their cards right, they could stack them evenly which would leave room for a bike lane Queens-bound and a broader Promenade on top.

  • B.

    This configuration would allow three lanes both ways.

  • Jorale-man

    Seems like a huge lost opportunity to get the highway out of sight and sound. Really, why not essentially raise the current berms in the park another hundred or so feat to where they reach up to the Promenade? I'm being reductive, of course, but that would turn the highway into a 3-story tunnel and vastly improve quality of life for residents and park-goers.

  • Arch Stanton

    The three lane configuration of the original design was off set by one lane but still "stacked".

  • Banet

    The promenade itself is only 60 or 70 feet above sea level so I hope they do not raise them an additional 100 feet! Even raising them another 20 feet would block the view from the promenade down to the shoreline. .

  • B.

    Right. And stacked evenly, you can fit in a bike lane.

  • Arch Stanton

    Why would they put a bike lane there, who on earth would want to ride right next to all that heavy traffic? Especially when they is a much nicer bike path already going through the park.
    It would be nice if they widened the Promenade and made a bike lane there as well.

  • B.

    That's all the promenade needs is a bike lane.

    But after all, a lane on the Brooklyn Bridge has been set aside for bicycles. Still, getting on and off a BQE bike lane would be problematic. It could be solved, given the extensive makeover.

  • Jorale-man

    Well, I haven't attempted to bring a tape measure but what you're saying suggests that it would be even easier to accomplish this.

  • Arch Stanton

    Many similar esplanades have bike lanes. Battery Park City for example.

    The Brooklyn Bridge is a critical link between boroughs, people must use. The poorly conceived bike lane on the roadway, is the epitome of the de Blasio administration's profound idiocy.

    Who would use a bike lane on the BQE and why? How much bike traffic is there between Cobble hill and Dumbo to warrant such an undertaking?

  • Arch Stanton

    There were 3 lanes each way, they were reduced to 2, due to the deterioration of the structure.

  • Andrew Porter

    Brooklyn Bridge Park is only about 10 feet above mean high water. From everything I've been reading, the ice shelves in Antarctica are melting much faster than previously predicted.

    Not going to end up well for BBP, the BQE, eventually, NYC itself.