Across the country and particularly in New York, there is a movement to tear down highways. This began with the I-81 in Syracuse and has emboldened advocates to target major thoroughfares for replacement. Highways are of course the offices of the trucking industry which provides between 70-75 percent of our nation’s freight, and 90 percent of freight to New York City. To the extent that freight is mentioned at all in these conversations, the focus is on removing “smoke belching trucks” and idealized shifts in modes of transportation. Never mind the incredible progress the trucking industry has made (and continues to make) in incorporating clean vehicles and technology into fleet operations or the fact that any other modes of transportation (maritime, rail, or cargo bike) must be done in coordination with current logistics providers.
This brings us to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (BQE) a major freight artery for the Northeast which runs through parts of New York City. About 17,000 trucks per day utilize this roadway to facilitate commerce and provide vital goods and service to the region. The question of “what to do with the BQE?”
Let’s take a step back for a second, outside of the long-term planning for the BQE, short term repairs are needed to ensure the viability of the structure as a permanent solution is devised. As part of the short-term repair the traffic lanes were reduced from six down to four. As the Trucking Association of New York (TANY) noted in a statement, this created unsustainable congestion which delayed goods movement, jeopardized drivers’ hours of service, and had the unintended consequence of moving trucks off the BQE and onto local streets. Thereby increasing both emissions and possibilities of encounters with vulnerable road users. Thankfully, New York City’s Department of Transportation (DOT) reversed course and restored the highway to six lanes other than during scheduled overnight/weekend repair work.
This news, combined with the newly released proposals has left many powerful elected officials and advocates frustrated that a highway like infrastructure will remain at all. Even though every proposal significantly enhances green, pedestrian, and cyclist space while decreasing accessibility for commercial vehicles. Frankly, the team at DOT is working incredibly hard to balance various needs and opinions to build something that will reinvigorate communities without disrupting the vital flow of regional commerce. It is crucial that companies with vehicles that utilize the BQE look at the various proposals and let DOT know your thoughts on their plans.