The Department of Transportation (DOT) began its long-awaited renovation of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE) on Monday, August 30th. The first portion of the project includes extensive repairs on a mile-long stretch between Atlantic Avenue and the Brooklyn Bridge, and will involve reducing the number of lanes from three to two in each direction. The smaller number of lanes is a permanent change that will stay in place after work is completed.
In a public statement the DOT acknowledged that the lane-reduction will cause “substantial delays” during construction. However, the agency stands by its belief that the project will help to preserve and maintain the decaying road going forward by lessening the weight of vehicle traffic.
“This lane remarking may be inconvenient for some, but it is essential to making the road safer immediately and for decades to come,” said Hank Gutman, Commissioner of the DOT. “During this necessary work on the BQE, we strongly encourage drivers to seek alternate routes and use public transportation.”
The repair work will most intensely affect truck drivers, who traditionally use the BQE as a thoroughfare to bring goods into Manhattan. The DOT is encouraging trucks to use alternative routes, such as the Hugh Carey Tunnel and New Jersey Turnpike, to bring goods into the city.
Reducing truck traffic and the weight of vehicles on the elevated roadway is one of the overarching goals of the BQE repair project. Announced last month by Mayor Bill de Blasio and the DOT, the four-part repair plan is aimed at increasing the road’s lifespan by at least another 20 years through a series of repairs, new vehicle regulations, and continued maintenance.
In addition to the lane-reduction in Downtown Brooklyn, the DOT will implement new water filtration systems to avoid further water damage throughout the BQE. In addition to changes on the BQE itself, the Mayor urged the City to invest in alternative forms of freight transportation to lessen the burden placed on the elevated roadway. De Blasio has instructed City agencies to research supply chain solutions, including incentivised off-hour deliveries, freight consolidation, rail and boat transportation, and cargo bike deliveries.
Traffic along the road has been heavy since the work began, yet longtime advocates of the repair project remain optimistic about the long term good it can bring.
“Extending the useful life of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, while ensuring the safety of drivers and passengers of vehicles that use the roadway, will allow time for the City, State, and federal governments to develop a long-term approach to this critical route that reflects New York’s evolving transportation needs and better serves the communities along the BQE corridor,” added Downtown Brooklyn State Senator Brian Kavanaugh, who has been pushing for BQE renovations for close to a decade.
A spokesperson from community advocacy group the Cobble Hill Association also sees the lane-reduction as a first step in making Brooklyn a safer and less polluted borough.
“The transformation of the BQE, one of New York City’s most decrepit and polluting transportation corridors, is of critical importance to the future of our city,” the spokesperson said. “The planning to reverse the negative environmental, economic, and public health impacts of the BQE must begin now, and we will hold the City to its commitment to move forward immediately.”