Brooklyn Boro

New system to ticket overweight trucks on BQE ‘significantly delayed’

Brooklyn officials frustrated; expected technology in January

January 11, 2023 Mary Frost
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A highly anticipated project designed to electronically ticket overweight trucks on the Brooklyn-Queens-Expressway (BQE) will be “significantly delayed,” the city Department of Transportation (DOT) has told Brooklyn officials. 

UPDATE: See below for a response by the Coalition for the BQE Transformation

The goal of the BQE Weigh-In-Motion (WIM) system is to prevent massive trucks from further deteriorating the triple cantilever that underpins the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. 

Local officials said they were deeply disappointed by the news.

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Signing the statement were Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, state Sen. Brian Kavanagh, Rep. Dan Goldman, Rep. Nydia Velázquez, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Councilmember Lincoln Restler.

“NYC DOT needs to expeditiously work to get WIM in place, and immediately accelerate investments to preserve this faltering structure before it is too late,” the group urged. “This includes safety and remedial measures that the city committed to taking, but has since postponed, such as waterproofing roadway joints on the cantilever.”

They added, “As we embark on what will undoubtedly be a long and complicated process to improve and re-imagine the entire BQE corridor, we want the public to know that we are deeply concerned about this delay, and we are doing everything we can to keep communities safe.”

Serious deterioration can be seen on the underside of the BQE’s triple cantilever. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

DOT: It’s the calibration protocols

DOT spokesperson Vincent Barone told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday that motion sensors have been installed; it’s the calibration protocols which are still in development.

He reassured the Eagle that the DOT is fully engaged in maintaining the safety of the BQE.

“As the Adams administration develops concepts for a long-term fix for BQE Central, DOT is rigorously monitoring the triple cantilever and making interim repairs as needed to ensure it remains structurally sound,” Barone said. 

“We have installed weigh-in-motion sensors along BQE Central and are working through remaining internal and external administrative processes to launch what will be a first-in-the-nation enforcement program against overweight trucks,” he said.

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon on Thursday explained her stance to constituents upset about her supposed lack of “outrage” over the city’s plan to replace the beloved Brooklyn Heights Promenade with a six-lane highway while the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is being rebuilt. Eagle photo by Todd Maisel
Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. Eagle photo by Todd Maisel

Simon: Led to believe it would be ready in January

In December 2021, Simon and Kavanagh, at the request of DOT, secured the passage of the WIM legislation. The system will target trucks exceeding the 40-ton weight limit while traveling along the Brooklyn Central portion of the BQE, which runs from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street.

About 11% of the trucks traveling there are overweight, a study of the highway showed. An expert panel convened by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio found that illegally overweight trucks were contributing significantly to the structure’s deterioration.

Since the WIM is the first of its type in nation, the calibration protocols aren’t quite the same as those currently in use, Simon told the Eagle. “Since it’s new — it’s a purpose-built system — we’re just a little ahead of it.”

To issue citations, the WIM has to properly calibrate weight and convert it to state systems, she said. “It’s the state Department of Motor Vehicles that issues tickets.”

She is disappointed that DOT did not keep officials abreast of the delay, however. “We were led to believe it would be working in January, and we would be able to issue violations in January. I wish we knew this months ago. “I think we all [officials] share this frustration.”

Besides having a deleterious effect on the roadway, “It’s also relevant that overweight trucks have increased emissions,” Simon said. 

The weight of massively overweight trucks has added to the deterioration of the BQE, according to a study by an expert panel. Shown: The BQE Central section, underpinning the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

A ‘Highway to Hell’

Brooklyn Heights resident Laurie Garrett is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author on global public health. She pointed out years ago the dangers of the toxic particulate matter released by the more-than-150,000 trucks and cars that travel the BQE daily. 

“The most optimistic engineering forecasts put key parts of the BQE, especially cantilevered sections in Brooklyn, in danger of collapse or structural failure by 2026, but there is no “Big Fix” plan,” Garrett told the Eagle on Wednesday.

“There are only two ways — ideally in combination — to genuinely delay catastrophic events: Close down lanes, and/or enforce strict weight limits on all vehicles” Garrett said. “Without weight sensors, there can be no enforcement, and loaded trucks weighing 10 times the burdens of loaded vehicles 80 years ago will continue roaring down a highway to hell.” 

DOT unveiled its first draft of design possibilities for the reconstruction of BQE Central in mid-December. “Now is the time to think big,” Mayor Eric Adams said at that time. Brooklyn officials thought the city could do better, however.  Public workshops have been ongoing. 

Adams and his DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez are accelerating the redesign timetable to take advantage of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

Response by the Coalition for the BQE Transformation

The news that the implementation of the Weigh-In-Motion (WIM) program on the BQE will be delayed is extremely disappointing and highly disconcerting.

DOT must initiate WIM as soon as possible; but until the program can be implemented, the city must take immediate measures and utilize every means at its disposal to enforce the existing laws governing overweight trucks and reduce the strain on the rapidly deteriorating roadway.

For years our communities have been anticipating the start of this critical means of deterring overweight truck traffic on the most vulnerable section of the highway. We have been assured that one of the things that would assist in preventing a catastrophic collapse of the cantilever is the implementation of this very program which is now significantly delayed. Furthermore, other methods the city could have pursued to prevent structural failure have been deemed “unnecessary” as the city is endeavoring to solve for the long-term vision for the BQE corridor on an accelerated timeline. While we will continue to work in partnership with the city on the visioning and design process for a more sustainable and forward-looking B.Q.E. corridor, we must be confident that the safety of thousands of motorists, pedestrians, and our communities is being prioritized in the meantime.

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