TEAR IT DOWN, AND
MOVE IT UNDERGROUND
On any given moment in New York City, traffic
on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway
(BQE) is a mess — and the only thing worse
than the volume is the road itself.
Much has been written about the “triple-level” cantilever
that carries the roadway through Brooklyn
Heights. It’s crumbling, but it’s also complex, and the
city’s struggled in recent years for the proper solution
beyond removing two traffic lanes and lightening the
The rest of the roadway, from the Battery Tunnel
to the Grand Central Parkway, isn’t much better. In
too many parts, the BQE doesn’t meet modern federal
highway standards for safety, and cuts through entire
communities as a noisy eyesore that moves vehicles
but blocks normal life for its neighbors.
But one of the city’s preeminent voices in New York
City’s construction trade, Carlo Scissura, may have
spoken for frustrated drivers and residents everywhere
on Wednesday when he said, of the BQE, “tear it
down” and build a modern replacement.
Oh, if only!
The BQE carries tens of thousands of cars, trucks
and buses every day; problematic as it is, the expressway
is one of the most important arteries in the city. It’s
hard to imagine the city, state and federal government
ever going along with a plan to make it disappear.
The best way forward for the BQE, however, might
be to move much of it underground just as Boston buried
its Central Artery through the “Big Dig” and Seattle
interred its Alaskan Way.
There’s also talk of capping the concrete trenches
where the BQE runs through parts of Brooklyn and
Queens — an idea that’s gathering momentum in the
Bronx as well for the Cross Bronx Expressway.
Replacing the BQE with a new, tunneled expressway
would be an incredible upgrade from the current
roadway itself. It would stitch back together neighborhoods
that the roadway has split for decades and institute
a revival of commercial and residential development.
But this won’t be cheap. It will cost taxpayers tens of
billions of dollars, and numerous years, to get it done.
Scissura indicated that the recently passed Bipartisan
Infrastructure Bill might provide New York with a
down payment to get it done.
It’s complex. It’s costly. It’ll be inconvenient for the
people who live there.
But tearing the BQE down and moving it underground
is an idea whose time has finally come.
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TIMESLEDGER | QNS.12 COM | NOV. 19 - NOV. 25, 2021
Replacing the BQE with a new, tunneled expressway would be an incredible upgrade from the current roadway
itself. Photo by Todd Maisel
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Governor Kathy Hochul’s recent ride on a
test train to the new Long Island Rail Road
Grand Central Terminal was a great photo
op, but omitted critical facts.
Since 2001, costs have grown from $3.5 billion to
$11.2 billion today. This does not include $4 billion
more for “readiness projects” carried off line from
the official project budget.
The opening service date slipped from 2009 to
In our post COVID-19 world, it’s doubtful that
the projected 60,000 new LIRR riders will use the
train by the December 2022 opening. It’s said that
riders could save 40 minutes by using this terminal,
but that depends upon how long it takes to exit,
followed by how many blocks riders must walk to
transfer to a subway or bus before reaching their
Travel time from Jamaica to Grand Central Terminal
was 27 minutes, versus 20 minutes to Penn
Station. The one-stop subway from Penn Station to
Times Square transferring to the 42nd Street Shuttle
arriving in GCT is seven minutes or less.
Many will continue telecommuting from home
part or full time. There will be fewer face-to-face
meetings and conferences, with increased usage of
Manhattan-based corporations continue
downsizing. Others are relocating employees to
suburban offices closer to home.