A new expert panel will evaluate options for the replacement of the aging Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) from the Atlantic Avenue interchange to Sands Street in Brooklyn, Mayor Bill de Blasio says.
Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the New York Building Congress (NYBC) will chair the panel, which will include a range of leaders in the fields of urban planning, engineering, construction, traffic modeling and historic preservation, the mayor’s office said in a news release.
Panel members’ backgrounds include academia, industry groups, civic organizations, labor, and business. They will consult community groups and elected officials, and evaluate all suggested concepts — as well as provide their own perspectives. They are expected to conclude the process by this summer. The formal environmental process for the BQE reconstruction will take these recommendations into consideration when it begins at the end of 2019.
“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,” de Blasio said in a statement. “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.”
The new BQE Panel was created in consultation with local elected officials and civic associations. It will bring together a group of independent, interdisciplinary experts to evaluate the BQE project assumptions and concepts, with meetings beginning this month. This outside expertise is expected to find new perspectives and ask probing questions on how best to design and implement the BQE reconstruction, one of the largest and most complex infrastructure projects in the entire country.
Panel members include:
- Carlo Scissura, NY Building Congress (Chair)
- Rohit Aggarwala, Sidewalk Labs
- Vincent Alvarez, New York City Central Labor Council
- Kate Ascher, BuroHappold Engineering
- Elizabeth Goldstein, Municipal Arts Society
- Henry Gutman, Brooklyn Navy Yard Development Corp./Brooklyn Bridge Park
- Kyle Kimball, Con Edison
- Mitchell Moss, NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
- Kaan Ozbay, NYU Tandon School of Engineering
- Hani Nassif, Rutgers School of Engineering
- Benjamin Prosky, American Institute of Architects
- Denise Richardson, General Contractors Association
- Ross Sandler, New York Law School
- Jay Simson, American Council of Engineering Companies of New York
- Tom Wright, Regional Plan Association
- Kathryn Wylde, Partnership for NYC
The city says additional panelists may be announced
At the end of the evaluation process, the panel will submit a brief report, outlining key recommendations, which could address both design concepts and construction innovations.
BQE – Atlantic to Sands: The approximately 1.5-mile section of the BQE between the Atlantic Avenue Interchange and Sands Street is among the most complex highway structures in the country, and includes the triple-cantilever structure of which the Brooklyn Heights promenade is the top-most tier. Originally constructed by Robert Moses, the road was completed in 1954 and carried fewer than 50,000 vehicles daily when it opened.
Today, the roadway is part of Interstate-278, a critical interstate and inter-borough connector — where daily traffic now exceeds 150,000 vehicles including more than 15,000 trucks. An evaluation by outside consultants hired by the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) concluded in 2016 that if the road is not reconstructed by 2026, weight restrictions may need to be added to the structure – including diverting all truck traffic to local roads. In 2018, a new state law was enacted that will allow the BQE project to be constructed using the Design-Build method, which is expected to save time and money.
“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,” said DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “This new panel presents an important opportunity to create the best plan possible — with community voices heard throughout the process. We also thank the elected officials who have been and will doubtless remain actively engaged as we move forward.”
“I must express my sincerest appreciation to Mayor de Blasio and his administration for entrusting me with this critical role,” the NYBC’s Scissura said in the statement. “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. I look forward to working with our incredible DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, the panelists and the residents of New York City to produce an outcome that is in the best interests of everyone,” he said.