Hoping to persuade powerful Brooklyn Heights NIMBYs to support plans to build a temporary elevated roadway through the Brooklyn Promenade to facilitate necessary Brooklyn-Queens Expressway repairs, the Department of Transportation took reporters on a tour of the underbelly of the first part of the BQE replacement at Atlantic Avenue on Friday afternoon.
Pointing at a crack in the ceiling where daylight is coming in, BQE Program Manager Tanvi Pandya says this is a common problem across the entire BQE: "Every 50 feet we have joints like this and most of them are leaking and showing deterioration."
There are also huge swaths of exposed rebar. "As rebar gets exposed it starts corroding... that's when we start losing capacity in the structure," Pandya said.
The tour took place a day after the DOT revealed the BQE would need to be closed for extensive repairs. One proposal suggested closing the Brooklyn Heights promenade for up to six years while another outlined a lane-by-lane replacement process that would take up to eight years.
A major problem with the roadway is the concrete itself. It turns out it wasn’t really designed for heavy trucks. Pandya said if the 1.5-mile stretch slated to be repaired—between Atlantic Avenue and Sands Street—isn’t done by 2026, truck traffic will have to be restricted.
The concrete, apparently, doesn’t do well with the freeze-thaw weather we have every year. "As we keep going over with the cold and hot, cold and hot it [concrete] starts to break apart and this is a durability concern," she explained.
The BQE is actually made up of 21 separate bridges. There are about 153,000 vehicles that travel on it a day.
Robert Collyer, Deputy Commissioner of Bridges, said he doesn’t expect the city will use eminent domain during the project, but several parks will be closed. An environmental assessment will determine whether residents at Columbia Heights and Cranberry Street, by the most damaged part of the triple cantilever section of the BQE, will have to be relocated during construction.
"Not replacing this road hasn't presented itself as an option," DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said.