Brooklyn Boro

Transforming the BQE: A Path Forward

February 17, 2023 Roy Sloane
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EDITOR’S NOTE: Cobble Hill resident Roy Sloane has always offered insightful and transformative ideas. He is a longtime civic leader having served for decades as the President and an officer of the Cobble Hill Association. Together with Tony Manheim, Sloane led the community’s efforts to create Brooklyn Bridge Park and secured the first million dollars from local elected officials to create the Local Development Corporation (LDC) for that park. He served as the Public Affairs Chair for the LDC and organized all the large-scale community engagements that led to city and state funding. In 2010 the State recognized Sloane’s transportation acumen and appointed him as the only citizen member of its BQE Technical Advisory Committee during the initial BQE study.

Sloane’s op-ed outlines his idea to move this project forward using the latest transportation modeling technology that can test the various solutions proposed. An independent, third party to create and run the model would be very helpful for our politicians, too, as it provides an objective means to evaluate the ideas being discussed. Fixing the BQE in its entirety should be driven by data and not as a popularity contest. And with data, the State and Federal officials may re-engage for transformative solutions the community has long advocated, in addition to the urgent fixes required today.

Sloane believes this kind of modeling is essential “given that the NYC DOT only controls roughly 1.9 miles of the BQE and has no jurisdiction over the remaining 19 miles.” So it appears that any benefits for communities to the north and south will require the city’s limited plan to achieve them, too.

A Path Forward

The four objectives outlined by Mayor Adams for revisioning the BQE Corridor – Urgency & Resiliency, Equity, Fiscal Responsibility, and Stakeholder Involvement – are noble goals that have been met with universal approval. The call for a “transformative solution” and the recognition that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address the problems of what may be the worst stretch of Federal Interstate Highway in America, is also something that is universally agreed upon.

We also agree that when the highway is over capacity — and that is pretty much all the time — traffic flows like a river through the communities along the entire BQE corridor. It’s a flood that destroys the quality of our lives, and harms our children and our health. All agree that’s what is responsible for pedestrian and biker injuries and deaths as well as for the endless delays that waste our time and increase the cost of everything that we buy.

As a 35-year member of my community board’s transportation committee and longtime civic leader who has attended hundreds of public meetings and hearings on traffic issues, held speed guns and tailed trucks in the middle of the night with area residents, I can tell you that there is much agreement that these are the issues that truly plague our communities.

The Mayor and NYC DOT have promised to finally address these issues and our local elected officials have lauded the effort, but it is still not clear exactly how they propose to accomplish the Mayor’s goals. This lack of clarity is especially critical for the residents North and South of the Central Triple Cantilevered Roadway (TCR) section of the BQE. The TCR needs to be repaired, rehabilitated or replaced, but it is not clear how this will impact or perhaps even help resolve the issues North and South. Given that the scale of the infrastructure repair/replacement cost for a project of this magnitude will certainly be in the billions and will cause years of discomfort and inconvenience. I hope we can all agree that good planning requires a comprehensive plan that has been tested, thoroughly vetted, and proven if we are going to achieve an effective solution.

Fortunately, this is something that is possible. Sophisticated transportation modeling can create an interactive computer model that can look at the entire corridor. Benchmarks and goals can be established. Quantifiable metrics can be used to test and compare all proposed solutions. Is a 6-lane Triple Cantilevered Roadway needed? Will it reduce T.R.AP. for all sectors? Would a 4-lane roadway reduce overflow traffic in adjacent communities? Would moving I-278 and the truck route to a tunnel underneath downtown Brooklyn accomplish these goals? Modeling can help provide those answers… before we build. Decisions will still need to be made, but they would be informed decisions to address the achievable goals I think we all agree on.

So, there is actually a lot of agreement about the need to transform the BQE. What there is much disagreement about is how best to accomplish that transformation. To that end, I would like to propose that our elected officials retain an independent transportation consulting firm capable of creating an interactive transportation model to virtually test all alternative proposals and demonstrate how the benefits might be distributed. Would this be a technical challenge— Yes. Can it be done— the answer is also, Yes. Would it be worth it? I certainly hope we can all agree that employing 21st-century technology might be the best path forward toward achieving an equitable, environmentally responsible 21st-century transportation solution for the Brooklyn Queens Expressway.

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