Investigations

State cancels plans to rebuild BQE

Thursday, February 02, 2012

"We are planning to improve 100 bridges," Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

In his state of the state address, Governor Cuomo promised to accelerate construction to rebuild crumbling bridges.

"32% of bridges are rated deficient," Governor Cuomo said.

Among the worst is the one-and-a-half mile stretch of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway: a notorious triple-decker pot-holed, patched up highway in Brooklyn Heights, long-overdue for a major rehab.

But just weeks ago, the state Department of Transportation suddenly decided to cancel plans to move ahead on rebuilding the BQE.

It's a decision that meant the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in federal highway funds.

"This is a big mistake. I can't conceive that they don't recognize how vital this thoroughfare is and they've been patching it for years," said Carole Grau.

Anyone who drives the nearly 60-year-old stretch of the BQE is aware of the growing patchwork of metal netting to keep the crumbling concrete from falling on cars.

A 2009 inspection report Eyewitness News obtained documents the rapidly deteriorating conditions of most of the bridge's spans.

In this report from three years ago, the DOT states: "The structural deficiencies are increasing despite aggressive maintenance efforts."

"I drive it all the time. We know it's coming to the end of its useful life," City Council Public Safety Chair Peter Vallone said.

City Councilman Peter Vallone chairs the Public Safety Committee.

"Serious action needs to be taken and rather than do that, they decided to take their money and go someplace else, and that is not the decision that's going to keep us safest that's for sure," Councilman Vallone said.

The state Department of Transportation declined to be interviewed for our report.

But, they insist the BQE is structurally sound.

In canceling the rebuilding project, a spokesman says, "It came down to making strategic choices in order to make the best use of limited resources."

So for at least the next decade, expect to see the patch-work spread as the state tries to squeeze more years from an out-dated and weakening bridge.

And expect more of this too: DOT data shows the BQE has an accident rate in "excess of five times the statewide average."

"We need to be safe, we need to rebuild our infrastructure," Gov. Cuomo said.

"I mean they're waiting for a collapse and possibly deaths," Grau said.

Both the state and city insist the BQE is structurally sound and that repairs will be made on an as-needed basis.

Eyewitness News requested a copy of the latest inspection and was told it was not ready for release.

That inspection was done six months ago.

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brooklyn queens expressway, investigations, jim hoffer
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