BQE Cantilever Reconstruction

In early December 2022, hundreds of people from Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, DUMBO, Fulton Ferry, Vinegar Hill and Downtown Brooklyn participated in DOT-led workshops to review preliminary design concepts for the Atlantic to Sands section of the BQE corridor. Although the concepts offer a slight improvement over their initial plans to rebuild “as is”, we urge the city to respond to the call for additional plans that would truly showcase New York City’s leadership on sustainable, forward-facing infrastructure.

We are grateful to Congress Member Nydia Velázquez, Congress Member-elect Dan Goldman, State Senator Andrew Gounardes, Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon and Council Member Lincoln Restler for releasing a strong statement on December 16. We are entirely in agreement with their words:

The rebuilding of the BQE presents us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to undo decades of environmental racism and community harm, protect our planet, and provide the 21st century infrastructure Brooklynites deserve. With the climate crisis upon us, we must explore options that ensure a just transition away from fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses.
We need to see a more forward-thinking option that re-imagines the entire BQE corridor for the health and well-being of New Yorkers and our planet.
It is also our consensus opinion that any solution must at least achieve two goals: 1) minimizing vehicular traffic to two lanes in each direction and 2) limiting negative impacts on air quality, noise and vibrations, such as maximizing the capping of the roadway.
We recognize that the triple cantilever is falling apart and we support efforts by the Adams’ administration to secure federal funding to address this critical need. Yet any proposal that takes us backward by expanding cars and trucks to three lanes would result in accommodating six million more vehicles annually on the BQE. That is at direct odds with our city and state’s environmental goals. We must encourage forward-thinking policies that consider Bus Rapid Transit and increase regional marine and rail freight movements to minimize long haul trucking on our roadways and bridges.
Finally, we urge the State to participate in this process of re-imagining the entire BQE corridor and address longstanding inequities. We look forward to continuing to work with our city, state, and federal agencies to ensure that the project is consistent with their respective climate change goals and responsive to the community’s concerns.

For more details read our NEWS article, or click on links below.

There has been extensive media coverage on these latest concept plans. Read the Brooklyn Eagle’s coverage. The Brian Leher Show on WNYC, Brownstoner, Streetsblog and ABC TV and have also covered the story.

2019 update
DOT’s original proposal from 2018
Alternative concept the BHA developed to prove the feasibility of alternates designs which would be preferable to the DOT’s proposed solutions.
Unified Vision Statement the BHA sent to the Mayor’s Expert Panel with eleven other neighborhood associations and groups. Or learn about our Town Hall on April 4, 2019.

Below you will find some background information helpful to fully understand this complex issue.

About This Issue

The BQE, also known as I-278, was built in the 1940s with a 1-1/2 mile structure known as the “triple cantilever”  that extends from south of Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street, just north of the Manhattan Bridge. It carries eastbound and westbound traffic on separate levels under the world-famous Promenade. While the BQE is owned by the NYS Department of Transportation, it is maintained by the NYC Department of Transportation.

Now nearing 80 years old, the triple cantilever is in serious need of reconstruction due to structural deterioration and the requirement to bring the highway up to modern standards with regard to lane widths, truck clearances and road and ramp geometries.  When the reconstruction is begun, the BQE’s traffic will have to rerouted for years, including the potential for moving it onto a nearby temporary structure, to maintain essential connections to the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, local streets and the regional highway network.  The planning for the project will be concerned as well with minimizing its environmental impacts on Brooklyn Heights and adjacent neighborhoods.

The City has allocated $1.7 billion for the project in its 10-year capital budget, but additional funding is likely required from federal and state sources.  The BHA will be an active participant in the ongoing planning process and work with other stakeholders to advocate for a rebuilding option that is least disruptive to the community while providing benefits for Brooklyn Heights residents.  For that reason, the plan must also address (1) improving access to Brooklyn Bridge Park to relieve the burden currently experienced by Joralemon Street residents, and (2) improving the design of the areas through which the highway passes on the north and south ends of the cantilever, which include many currently unusable open space parcels.

Long Term Project

Planning for the BQE cantilever project is a complex undertaking that has been going on for many years, which the State began with a planning workshop conducted in 2006.

In the Spring of 2016, the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) began a 5-year planning process in preparation for rehabilitating the BQE Triple Cantilever.  At a June 29th public meeting in 2016, DOT reviewed the project’s goals, milestones and timeframe. As an initial step, the agency has initiated a detailed examination of the 21 bridge structures that comprise this section to determine their condition and the scope of repairs.  It will also select an engineering firm to explore various rehabilitation options, including measures to mitigate adverse environmental effects, such as maintaining traffic flow while construction proceeds. As part of this study, the firm will perform a detailed environmental analysis.  Along with replacing deficient structural elements, DOT’s plans will involve upgrading the highway’s roadways and ramps to make them safer for the 140,000 vehicles that use the BQE daily.  DOT expects construction to begin in 2021 or 2022 and be completed by 2026. To expedite the project and lower the cost, the City, with the support of the BHA, successfully lobbied the State for the authority to use a design-build approach.  While design options have yet to be selected, DOT has ruled out as infeasible any of the tunnel options that were considered in an earlier round of planning.