The Mayor’s BQE Panel met on June 27th with stakeholders from up and down the BQE corridor. The announcement by Panel Chair Carlo Scissura that DOT’s proposal for a 6-lane elevated highway on the Promenade “has very little chance of being approved” given the political and legal approvals it would face received an enthusiastic response. Though the Promenade Highway is not officially “off the table,” Mr. Scissura and other panel members made the Panel’s rejection of DOT’s initial proposal very clear. Mr. Scissura added that the panel is “still at the beginning stage” but that “other alternatives must be explored.”
Mr. Scissura also stated that any temporary alternatives encroaching on Brooklyn Bridge Park would face similar obstacles and would not be approved, thus removing the temporary parallel bypass at the eastern edge of the park – the BHA/Wouters alternative – from consideration. The panelists consistently expressed preference for a “build once” permanent solution rather than temporary options.
Mr. Scissura outlined the panel’s activities since its formation in April.
The panel is taking a very broad look at the project in terms of the entire BQE corridor, the region’s future transportation needs, and environmental considerations, while acknowledging the tremendous challenges facing this evaluation. Mr. Scissura stressed that the panel has been meeting weekly, getting an understanding of the site conditions and its physical constraints, and interfacing with all the agencies –the Port Authority, the MTA, the NYC Department of Environmental Protection, the Brooklyn Bridge Park, and others – whose facilities within the project area would be affected.
The panel has also had discussions with State officials, since the State will have a significant role to play in funneling federal funds to the project. Mr. Scissura cited the Legislature’s extension of design-build authority for the project during the recently concluded session beyond the original April 2020 sunset date as an important achievement. On the Federal legislative front, we learned that two-way tolling on the Verrazzano Bridge is also moving forward with House passage of a transportation authorization bill that includes this authorization. It remains now for the Senate to take up this bill.
The panel confirmed that the BQE’s deterioration mandates that it be reconstructed, but recognized that any reconstruction approach will entail disruption, negatively impact the quality of life of adjacent neighborhoods, and affect the highway’s ability to support the regional economy. It will work with DOT to further assess the expected life of the current BQE to determine more precisely when restrictions will have to be placed on vehicles using the triple cantilever.
The panel will hold another stakeholder meeting before the report is released in the fall. The report will not endorse a specific plan but will focus on guiding principles and opportunities for better citywide transportation policies. Mr. Scissura remarked that the panel is pushing back on the assumption that the BQE has to accommodate its current volume of traffic and that the current crisis is “creating the political energy” to enable that to happen.
The panel suggested that the community should continue to advocate for the State’s active involvement in the project and to promote traffic demand measures that would enable the future BQE to be reconstructed as a 4-lane highway rather than its current 6-lane configuration.
The removal of the Promenade Highway from active consideration represents a huge victory for the community and the role played by the BHA and A Better Way in organizing concrete opposition to DOT’s initial approach.
During the discussion period that followed the panel’s presentation, the panel was roundly complimented on the thoroughness of its work and for listening and being responsive to the community’s concerns for a more forward-thinking approach to a very difficult project. The BHA shares this heartfelt appreciation for the panel’s hard work and for its conclusion that the Promenade Highway is no longer a viable option.
Read more about this in the Daily Eagle and Daily News. If you have any feedback you’d like to share with the Panel, please use the comment form here and note it’s directed to the “Expert Panel.” Full updates from the Panel can be found at https://www.bqe-i278.com/en/