Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City officials revealed a plan on Wednesday to squeeze another 20 years of operation out of the decrepit Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. This will buy time to come up with a more visionary, forward-thinking plan for the highway that reduces dependence on trucks and takes community concerns into account, the mayor said.
De Blasio said the city would “use this opportunity to rethink how people, goods, and services move around our city … The world is changing and we want to find new solutions.”
The plan includes preserving the current infrastructure by waterproofing it and eliminating the use of roadway salt; performing immediate maintenance; and enforcing limits on overweight trucks.
NYC’s Department of Transportation
has been warning for years that a one and a half mile stretch of the
interstate, which includes the triple cantilever underpinning the
Brooklyn Heights Promenade, was dangerously deteriorated. Rebuilding the
segment in its current form would be a massive undertaking costing
roughly $4 billion, and many advocates have called for the BQE, which is
a major truck route and source of pollution, to be cut back in size or even eliminated altogether.
While de Blasio is presiding over the intermediate-term repairs, he will be long out of office before any of the visionary work can begin. But he denied that he was “kicking the can down the road.”
“The notion that you’re going to turn the BQE into a park overnight, obviously that’s not going to immediately happen,” de Blasio said. “You need to reduce truck traffic, [move to] water and rail freight, and transform the reality. It will take years … This plan opens the door to get all those bigger things right.”
Officials pointed out it would also take years to line up the legislation and funding necessary for a major rethinking of the highway.
“This plan is designed to address current safety and structural concerns about the 70-year old roadway, while reimagining not only its future purpose, but how freight is moved in this city in the 21st century,” NYC Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman said.