Brooklyn Heights

Traffic time bomb looms if state fails to authorize faster, cheaper BQE fix

Truck traffic could swamp Brooklyn; Feb. 9 rally planned

January 29, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Queens Expressway’s $1.9 billion rehabilitation is in the planning stages. Without approval of a money- and time-saving method known as design-build, however, 16,000 trucks daily may be diverted through the streets of Brooklyn starting in 2026. Photo courtesy of the NYC Department of Transportation

Unless Albany acts soon, a nightmare traffic scenario is looming for Brooklyn and the entire metropolitan region.

The $1.9 billion, seven-year reconstruction of a dilapidated section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street must be completed by 2026. If it’s not, the city’s Department of Transportation will likely have to divert 16,000 trucks daily from the highway onto local streets.

This would be an “unmitigated disaster” for Brooklyn, according to the Brooklyn Heights Association (BHA) and other community groups, which are pushing legislators to act before the clock stops. The section of roadway includes the triple cantilever underpinning the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.

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The Department of Transportation (DOT) calls the BQE “one of the most critical and complex sections of urban expressway in the nation,” and reverberations from traffic chaos could extend out across the region.

In Brooklyn, trucks would likely exit the BQE in Bay Ridge and Sunset Park and use Third and Fourth Avenues; and to the north, they would exit before they get to DUMBO.

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Rally at the Montague Street entrance to the Promenade on Friday, Feb. 9 at 10 a.m.

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The BQE rehab can only be completed by 2026 if the state authorizes the city’s use of a streamlined bidding process called “design-build,” which will allow the work to be completed as many as two years faster and $113 million cheaper. DOT must issue a Request for Qualifications no later than this spring to begin procuring a design-build team.

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Governor Andrew Cuomo, however, did not include design-build authority for the BQE Reconstruction Project as one of his legislative priorities this session. In June, the state Senate ended its session having failed to authorize its use. The Assembly has passed the measure. (More about design-build below this article.)

How to Get Involved

BHA says it has made passage of design-build authority for the project its highest priority this spring. The group is working closely with state Sen. Brian Kavanagh and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon to promote its enactment, and plans several events where residents can get involved.

* Kavanagh and Simon are sponsoring a rally at the Montague Street entrance to the Promenade on Friday, Feb. 9 at 10 a.m. BHA’s Executive Director Peter Bray told the Brooklyn Eagle that he expects representatives from as many as 25 organizations at the rally, including neighborhood associations, Business Improvement Districts and the Chamber of Commerce.

* DOT will hold an informational BQE Public Scoping Meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 27 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Dock Street School, 19 Dock St. in DUMBO. A presentation at 5:30 p.m. will be followed by public testimony. Written comments on the Draft Scope of Work will be accepted by the Lead Agency until 5 p.m. on Monday, March 12. An online version is available at BQE-i278.com. 

* The BQE rehab will be the topic of BHA’s annual meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 28. Neighborhood turnout has not always been strong at DOT’s regularly scheduled workshops on the topic. “So we figured we’d bring it to the neighborhood,” Bray said. 

* BHA is chartering a bus to visit legislators in Albany on March 6. The group has been “reaching out far and wide” to neighborhood associations such as the Cobble Hill Association and the DUMBO Neighborhood Alliance. “It looks like a strong showing,” Bray said.

“We’re working with DOT and the Mayor’s Office to coordinate to make sure the grass roots perspective is heard in Albany on design-build authorization,” he said. Representatives on the bus will divide into teams and visit Senators’ offices.

“It’s the Senate that’s the obstacle,” Bray pointed out.

The Cobble Hill Association is asking concerned residents to write a letter requesting design-build authorization for the BQE project to: The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo; Governor of New York State; NYS State Capitol Building; Albany, NY 12224.

They request that people send copies to copies to: State Senator Brian Kavanagh ([email protected]) and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon ([email protected]).

Earlier this month, a bipartisan group of 19 Senators and Assemblymembers sent a letter to Cuomo urging him to include authorization for the design-build process in his upcoming state budget proposal.

But the governor failed to act, “for reasons known only to himself,” Bray said.

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What is Design-Build?

– Design-build is used on massive projects across the state, including the Tappan Zee and Kosciuszko bridges. But its use in NYC must be authorized by the state.

– The design-build process merges the design and construction bids, usually bid separately on large projects.

– When bid separately, two winning firms have to try to work together, adding time and cost to the project.

– Without design-build, the work will disrupt BQE traffic for up to two years longer than necessary and cost as much as $300 million more, according to DOT.

– Authorization for design-build on the BQE made it through the Assembly last year, but not the Senate.


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