Brooklyn Heights

New tech to ticket overweight trucks on BQE finally approved

Awaits Gov. Hochul’s signature

June 13, 2023 Mary Frost
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BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — A bill to implement a high-tech Weigh-In-Motion (WIM) system to detect and electronically ticket overweight trucks on a crumbling section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) has passed both houses of the state legislature, the bill’s sponsors Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon announced on Monday. (State Sen. Brian Kavanagh was an original sponsor.)

The bill now awaits Gov. Kathy Hochul’s signature.

Massively overweight trucks have caused significant damage to the BQE, in particular to the rapidly deteriorating triple cantilever underpinning the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. 

The federal weight limit for trucks on the interstate is 80,000 pounds. However, data collected in 2020 at the request of an expert panel convened by then-Mayor Bill de Blasio found roughly 11% exceeded that limit — with some trucks weighing 170,000 pounds or more. These overweight trucks, coupled with the ongoing deterioration of the Triple Cantilever, shorten the life of the roadway.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes. Photo: Steve Solomonson/Brooklyn Eagle

NYPD’s BQE Truck Enforcement Task Force can only physically pursue a fraction of the violations currently, since the alleged offenders must now be removed from the expressway and weighed on a scale. 

The WIM system will automatically record the axle weights and gross weights of vehicles using pressure-sensitive sensors. Cameras record offending vehicles’ license plate numbers, and a notice of fines can be automatically mailed to the owner, similar to the city’s automated school speed zone and red light-camera programs. 

“Illegally overweight trucks have done significant damage to the BQE triple cantilever and the risk of a catastrophic event goes up every year we don’t take action,” Simon said in a statement. “These massive illegal trucks have no place in New York. The recent highway collapse on I-95 is an example of the real destruction that trucks can cause on our roadways, and we cannot risk a disaster like that on the BQE.”

Gounardes applauded the passage of the bill and pointed out that its passage would also decrease harmful carbon emissions. “Automated enforcement against overweight trucks is critical for the safety and health of New Yorkers all across the city, and I look forward to seeing the Governor sign this bill into law,” he said.

Councilmember Lincoln Restler said he was pleased that the state legislature had passed the legislation. “I want to also thank my colleagues in the City Council for unanimously approving our home rule message to facilitate passage of this legislation in Albany. Removing overweight trucks from the triple cantilever via Weigh-In-Motion technology is critical to extending the cantilever’s lifespan and after frustrating delays we hope to see it finally implemented in the months ahead.”

Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon. Photo by Susannah Pasquantonio

Fines will start after 90-day grace period

According to state law, overweight trucks will start receiving fines 90 days after the WIM program kicks off. 

WIM legislation was first passed in 2021, and officials hoped that it would roll out in January of this year. Implementation was snagged, however, because the system’s calibration protocols were not the same as those currently in use.

“Since it’s new — it’s a purpose-built system — we’re just a little ahead of it,” Simon told the Brooklyn Eagle in January.

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

The bill that just passed in Albany “introduced a tech fix” to make sure the calibration protocols matched, a spokesperson from Simon’s office told the Eagle on Tuesday.

Motion sensors have already been installed in the eastbound direction on the Triple Cantilever, the spokesperson said, adding that NYCDOT has still not identified locations for Westbound BQE (Staten Island-bound).   

Roughly 155,000 vehicles a day use the the Triple Cantilever section of the BQE, including up to 25,000 trucks. Photo: Mary Frost, Brooklyn Eagle

The Eagle has reached out to DOT regarding the installation of the remaining sensors.

The bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support, and passed the Assembly unanimously.

Even though the sensors will only be installed, at least initially, on the Triple Cantilever section of the roadway, the WIM program will also reduce the harmful carbon emissions and improve the air quality in the Black and Brown communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the highway north and south of the central portion of the BQE, officials noted.

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