slimmer bridge, wider lanes

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New York City transportation officials unveiled the latest set of plans for the 1.5-mile section of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway under the Big Apple’s control.
In addition to a slate of plans connecting the Brooklyn Promenade above the roadway with Brooklyn Bridge Park below, the city is proposing what it hopes will be seen as a simple and elegant design: a thinner stack of roadways under the Brooklyn promenade.
Presently, the triple cantilever structure that skirts the edge of Brooklyn heights is staggered, with the Staten Island-bound lanes leaning out further from the promenade than the Queens-bound lanes above.
The new structure would tuck the Staten Island-bound lanes directly beneath the Queens-bound ones, while allowing for the wider lanes required by modern federal highway safety standards.
“It’s a real engineering challenge,” Meera Joshi, the city’s deputy mayor for operations, said in a press briefing.
“There are numerous physical infrastructure challenges — there’s [Department of Environmental Protection] sewer lines that run underneath, MTA infrastructure, and obviously you’re doing construction in the eye of the needle because you’re sandwiched in between a beautiful promenade and a beautiful park,” she said.
The road, which sees 130,000 vehicles — including 15,000 trucks — daily, has been in need of major repairs for many years.
“It is safe,” Joshi said of the triple-cantilever. “It is the most highly monitored piece of bridge infrastructure we have in the city [and] we’ve done a lot of interim work on it.”
In order to stack the lanes directly on top of one another, a series of MTA power transmission lines running under the Brooklyn Promenade would have to be relocated. While it’s still early in the design process, Joshi — who serves on the MTA’s board — said the state-run transit agency was open to the idea.
The plan would allow work crews to widen the highway’s obsolete lanes from 10 feet to 12 feet — the federally mandated width — without further obstructing the view from the promenade or the park.
Officials said the plan is meant to minimize the visual impact of the BQE as it passes through Brooklyn Heights.
Previous plans to reconstruct the BQE’s central corridor have drawn the ire of local residents and environmental activists who have said any plans to add lanes to the roadway would encourage more car traffic and bring more pollution to the neighborhood.
DOT commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said the plan in question could work with the current two-lane design or with a three-lane design — and that any decision on the number of lanes would be made following an environmental impact study.
“Whatever the lanes are, they are going to be wider to ensure the safety benefit that wider lanes provide,” Joshi said.
Work on the project is expected to begin in 2028.

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