High-tech crackdown on BQE’s overweight trucks to start Nov. 8
WIM program 90-day waiting period starts Aug. 10
BROOKLYN HEIGHTS — Overweight trucks attempting to drive on a deteriorated section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will soon be slapped with fines automatically, thanks to a first-in-the nation, high-tech program years in the making.
Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez announced on Monday that a 90-day warning period will begin on Aug. 10 for the roll out of the city’s Weigh-In-Motion technology, targeting trucks weighing over the legal limit on the BQE.
That means overweight trucks traveling in the Queens-bound lanes of the BQE’s Triple Cantilever will be hit with $650 fines beginning Nov. 8. The rollout for trucks traveling south towards Staten Island will begin later this year.
Massively overweight trucks have caused significant damage to the BQE, in particular to the rapidly deteriorating section underpinning the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. NYPD’s BQE Truck Enforcement Task Force can only physically pursue a fraction of the violations currently, since the alleged offenders must 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.
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, have shortened the life of the roadway.
The new automated enforcement program on the BQE was authorized by the enactment of bills sponsored by state Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, and signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul on July 28.
“The BQE is a critical driver of our entire region’s economy, and we will enforce the law to keep our city’s recovery moving full speed ahead,” Adams said in a release. “I want to thank Gov. Hochul, Sen. Gounardes, and Assemblymember Simon for their partnership on this legislation.”
“Illegally overweight trucks have caused significant damage to the BQE Triple Cantilever and to our environment,” Simon said. “That’s why I’m thrilled that New York is leading the way with our first-in-the-nation WIM program to get rid of these overweight trucks and extend the useful life of the BQE, while reducing carbon emissions.” She offered thanks to Commissioner Rodriguez and other officials, “And to the BQE expert panel who first recommended we consider this technology.”
“I’m proud that my first-in-the-nation program to safeguard the BQE’s infrastructure has been signed into law, and I thank my partners in government and our community for their work and support in getting this done,” Gounardes said. Representatives Nydia Velázquez and Daniel Goldman and Councilmember Lincoln Restler also weighed in with congratulations.
The law and the enforcement program apply only to the city-owned span of the BQE from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street, dubbed BQE-Central by the city.
The Brooklyn Eagle is withholding the exact location of the sensors at the city’s request so that truckers cannot bypass the technology.
The city said that DOT is partnering with the trucking industry to educate truck operators about the new system. The 90-day waiting period is state-mandated.
The city also said it would identify and target enforcement along alternative corridors that overweight trucks may try to use instead of the BQE.
Overnight jackhammering work on the Triple Cantilever portion of the BQE, delayed several times, is currently expected to begin the week of Aug. 14.
In the works for years
C2SMART is a consortium of universities, including Rutgers University and New York University, which is working with the city on the WIM sensors.
“We applaud the governor and Legislature for taking this important step to ensure the integrity of the BQE in the near term,” said Kaan Ozbay, director of C2SMART and professor of civil and urban engineering at NYU Tandon. “Our research shows WIM sensors effectively and accurately identify trucks that exceed BQE’s state and federal truck weight limits.”
C2SMART started roadbed tests of WIM on the BQE in 2019, according to a study published by the consortium. Multiple considerations went into the selection of sensors and the location of each sensor site, including curves in the roadway, proximity to exits, changes in slope, and surface smoothness. In order to calibrate the sensors, a truck with a known weight and heavy load was driven over them multiple times.
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 Eagle in January.
To issue citations, 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.
A bill that passed in Albany in June “introduced a tech fix” to make sure the calibration protocols matched, a spokesperson from Simon’s office told the Eagle.
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