Greenpoint, October, 2015

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Outward and Upward!

The BQE is falling apart. The sections that work least well and are the hardest to fix are the ones that cut through Downtown Brooklyn, under the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and through Cobble Hill, aka, "the Trench." So, what do you do when you need to replace a major highway that runs through a densely populated urban environment? You can go under it, but that's expensive and messy. You can go over it, but I doubt Brooklynites would welcome a seven- or eight-mile Pulaski Skyway-like elevated highway. That only leaves the Providence Solution: Go Around It!

Back in the 1980s, the Rhode Island DOT was faced with doing something about the section of I-195 that ran through Downtown Providence, Fox Point, and over the Providence River into East Providence. Built in the 1950s, it was designed to carry an estimated 75,000 vehicles a day and was handling more than 160,000. Plus, it had hazardous curves and closely space exits. Sound familiar? The RIDOT considered doing a major overhaul of the existing roadway or replacing it with a new section. They went with the latter, constructing a new stretch of road and bridge over the Providence River beyond the hurricane barrier, which had been built following the devastating 1956 hurricane. In other words, they went around the problem. That map above shows the recently reopened 1-195. The brown patches indicate where the old highway once rocked through downtown Providence and the East Side.

We can do the same. Imagine driving west (towards Staten Island) on the BQE, reaching Downtown Brooklyn and having the choice of staying on the local road or taking the [to be named] Bridge. If you choose the bridge, you are lifted gently above the new waterside park, over Gowanus Bay, and gradually reconnected with the existing expressway somewhere in Sunset Park. There might even be a buses only exit to Governors Island. Essentially, we'd be following the blue line on this map of BQE replacement/repair options--except what is proposed here is an "outboard tunnel" between Greenpoint and Sunset Park.

What are we groundhogs? We need a bridge not another tunnel. Something that will not only solve a major traffic problem but contribute to the majesty of New York City's built environment. Tomorrow, I'll offer some possible models for such a monumental under(over)taking.

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