Panel Created to Evaluate BQE Reconstruction Ideas

Image Credit: Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

The independent, interdisciplinary panel will submit recommendations to be considered in the BQE reconstruction process. On April 3, 2019, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the formation of a new expert panel to evaluate reconstruction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) from the Atlantic Avenue interchange and Sands Street. This section of the BQE spans 1.5 miles and is among the most complex highway structures in the country. It is part of Interstate 278, an inter-state and inter-borough connector that has daily traffic exceeding 150,000 vehicles, including more than 15,000 trucks.

The section has a triple-cantilever structure and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade sits at the structure’s top-most tier. According to a 2016 Department of Transportation evaluation, weight restrictions may need to be added to the structure if this section of the BQE is not reconstructed by 2026. This means all truck traffic would have to be diverted to local roads. The evaluation’s finding led to the decision to reconstruct this section of the BQE.  A new state law in 2018 was enacted to allow the BQE project to be constructed using the Design + Build method which is expected to save time and money.

The new BQE panel was formed to bring a group of independent, interdisciplinary experts to evaluate assumptions and concepts of the reconstruction. The new panel was created in consultation with local elected officials and civic associations. The panel, chaired by Carlo Scissura, will include experts in the fields of urban planning, engineering, construction, traffic modeling and historic preservation. The Center for New York City Law’s own Ross Sandler is one of the members on the panel. The panel is expected to find new perspectives for the reconstruction and ask questions on how to best design and implement the reconstruction.

The panel will begin meeting this April and will evaluate underlying project assumptions and review existing proposals, including those that have been generated by elected officials and community members, no-build or reduced capacity options, and ideas from the panel itself. They will hear from and consult with a group of elected officials and community, civic, and business associations throughout its review.

The panel will then submit a brief report, outlining key recommendations, which could address both design concepts and construction innovations. They are expected to produce their conclusions by the summer of 2019. The panel’s conclusions will be taken into consideration for the formal environmental process of the BQE reconstruction.

“The BQE is a lifeline for Brooklyn and the entire city – which is why we are bringing in a panel of nationally renowned experts from a range of fields to vet all ideas and make sure we get this right,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We will be engaging in a transparent, collaborative process to find the best solution for one of the most critical transportation corridors in the nation.”

“Community members and stakeholders across the city have come together to propose new ideas and call for fresh thinking on the BQE, the biggest such project the City has ever undertaken. This new panel presents an important opportunity to create the best plan possible — with community voices heard throughout the process,” said Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

“The panel that has been assembled represents the absolute best minds in urban planning, transportation, business, design, engineering and construction and will create a thoughtful, meaningful and inclusive process. Rebuilding the triple cantilever will affect every community along the BQE – as well as the tens of thousands of commuters that drive on it daily – and it is essential that we come together to ensure this project is done right for each individual neighborhood and all five boroughs,” said President and CEO of the New York Building Congress and BQE Panel Chair Carlo Scissura.

“I congratulate Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner Trottenberg for opening up the discussion and allowing an outside panel to evaluate proposals. I am delighted to participate in the task force,” said Professor Ross Sandler.

By: May Vutrapongvatana (May is a CityLaw intern, and a New York Law School student, Class of 2019).

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