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There are higher methods to spend $10 billion than rebuilding the BQE – New York Each day Information

New York Metropolis plans to spend greater than $10 billion on a mission that can pace up local weather change and improve the variety of New Yorkers killed by visitors and air pollution. The excellent news is that the town will maintain conferences so the general public can touch upon the plan, which is rebuilding the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway (BQE). The New York Metropolis Division of Transportation commissioned three schemes for dialogue: the designs are good, however the idea is incorrect. Now’s the time to say so. Future public conferences are listed at

Due to the way in which we drive in every single place for the whole lot, Individuals have been the biggest contributors to local weather change. Right here in New York, the place most of us do not personal a automotive, the town promised in 2005 to cut back greenhouse fuel emissions (GHG) 30% by 2025, a goal the town will not make. The town additionally dedicated to decreasing the GHG degree from transportation in 2005 by 70% in 2050. At our present charge of progress, it is unlikely we’ll do this.

Rebuilding the BQE makes assembly environmental targets tougher to achieve on the similar time the newest report from the UN says the world is transferring too slowly to keep away from catastrophic local weather change. Sustaining the established order for highways and driving might be disastrous for the long run.


The historical past of congestion pricing in New York exhibits how slowly we transfer to cut back visitors. The town tried implementing congestion pricing for vehicles in Manhattan in 2007. We’re on account of get a watered-down model on the finish of 2023. Fifteen years have handed, and certainly one of Mayor Adams’ chief advisors nonetheless calls congestion pricing “foolish.”

Preserving visitors flowing across the outer boroughs and into Manhattan (regardless of each the state’s and the town’s official objective of decreasing the variety of vehicles in Manhattan) is just one of many the explanation why New York Metropolis needs to rebuild the BQE. Every time somebody proposes demolishing the falling-down freeway, the “good cash” says we’d like the BQE for truck deliveries. Vehicles on the BQE transfer greater than 90% of the freight in Brooklyn and Queens.

Why that is so goes again to the Sixties, when the nation moved to a “simply in time” supply system that makes use of 53-foot-long containers that work for ship, rail, and truck freight. On the time, fuel price 27 cents a gallon, and nobody was speaking about local weather change or post-COVID supply-chain issues. However now we all know it is unhealthy to have these big vans driving by means of the town.

If we wish a greater planet, we’d like a Twenty first-century answer. Let’s make investments among the $10 billion in a sustainable freight-delivery system to interchange the carbon-belching plan we now have now. Whereas we’re at it, let’s make it what’s known as a “just-in-case” system with depots and warehouses much less depending on an environment friendly international provide chain.

Views of the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and Brooklyn Heights Promenade as taken from Manhattan on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019.

A Higher Means

The place ought to we make investments? First, we have to have a look at what’s known as “final mile deliveries” — how the products get to the shops, places of work, and residences. Small electrical vans are perfect for that. They slot in metropolis visitors, do not pound metropolis streets, are quieter, and pollute much less. Giant non-public supply providers like Amazon, UPS, and FedEx already use them.

Even higher for the setting are cargo bikes. New Yorkers are getting used to seeing them on metropolis streets, as a result of Amazon-owned Complete Meals makes use of cargo bikes, and some non-public contractors have sprung up. Within the phrases of former-president Donald J. Trump, they create “jobs, jobs, jobs.” And like the electrical vans, they will ship from warehouses and different depots that enhance the availability chain by storing stock in and across the metropolis. The fastest-growing land use in New Jersey is for distribution facilities and warehouse complexes. In the previous couple of years, Amazon’s New Jersey workforce has grown from 5,000 to 55,000.

If the large container vans delivering to New York drove to publicly-owned depots across the periphery of the town, we may get the big vans off metropolis streets. The massive diesel vans get six miles per gallon in regular circumstances and three miles per gallon in stop-and-go visitors. And the financing and possession of the vans imply they’ll proceed polluting for a very long time.

Nationwide, massive supply vans account for 10% of all miles pushed on our interstate highways, however 33% of the GHG emissions. A good higher system would promote extra supply by rail. It is a little-known proven fact that America ships extra by rail freight than Europe, the place vans dominate. However European cities do not enable massive tractor-trailers into the town facilities. In principle, New York Metropolis additionally bans vans longer than 53 toes from most metropolis streets. In actuality, we see bigger vans throughout New York. They’re harmful, noisy, and main contributors to unhealthy air.

rail supply

Now we have little rail freight in New York as a result of the closest Hudson crossing for freight trains is simply south of Albany. New York Metropolis, Lengthy Island, Westchester County, and southern New England all undergo from an absence of rail freight. All of the freight vans passing by means of New York on the Cross Bronx “Expressway” in transit to some other place create horrible visitors jams and unhealthy air pollution (and so do the vans on the BQE).

For many years, New York Congressman Jerry Nadler has proposed a railroad tunnel between Bayonne and Brooklyn that will carry freight trains throughout the Hudson. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer supported Nadler’s Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel. Mayor Mike Bloomberg made the tunnel certainly one of his administration’s highest priorities.

Based on a New York Metropolis Financial Improvement Corp. examine, the proposed tunnel had a benefit-to-cost ratio of two.2-to-1. They estimated a internet current worth far larger than the price of rebuilding the BQE.

Traffic on the BQE

A Higher Plan

There are numerous points concerned in tearing down the BQE and transferring New York to a greener freight supply system. One is what to do throughout the transition interval: eradicating vehicles from the BQE whereas persevering with to permit truck visitors would delay the lifetime of the freeway and provides a while to place a brand new system in place.

Vehicles may go on “right-sized” boulevards, which is what we in-built America earlier than we constructed inner-city highways. Expertise exhibits that eradicating the freeway would scale back the quantity of driving on metropolis streets, which is, in any case, our acknowledged objective.

Price mentioning is that the town already has a single ship-container middle, in Purple Hook (the Port Authority moved the remainder to New Jersey). One chance is for vans to depart the BQE at Purple Hook, the place a depot may serve each trucking and delivery (and rail, sooner or later).

Eradicating the BQE may open up massive areas of useful land owned by the town for parks and inexpensive housing. That is one other story, one I wrote about within the Each day Information with the previous mayor of Milwaukee, John Norquist, (“A freeway that hurts NYC,” op-ed, Nov. 25, 2019). However first, we should transcend the plans to spend billions of {dollars} rebuilding the BQE. If we rebuild the old style freeway, we might be caught with it for many years. Practically 30 cities across the nation are eradicating inner-city highways, together with Syracuse, Rochester, Detroit, Chattanooga, Dallas, and New Orleans.

I perceive issues will comply with after we take away the BQE. I do know that altering New York Metropolis’s supply system is not going to be straightforward. But when we care about life within the metropolis and our kids’s future we must be towards rebuilding the BQE and for utilizing the cash to maneuver right into a extra sustainable future.

The work might be costly, however we’re about to ask for billions of {dollars} in federal funding. And we by no means talked about not having sufficient cash to construct the interstate freeway system, the most costly infrastructure mission within the historical past of the world. Now we have more cash now than we had then. It is time to tear down Interstate 278, aka the BQE.

Massengale, an architect, is the writer of “Road Design: The Secret to Nice Cities and Cities.” He’s writing a second version with a brand new chapter documenting the most effective new Sluggish Streets and Sluggish Zones in European cities and cities.

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