The Brooklyn-Queens Expressway is the 38th-best highway in the New York City area, I determined in a highly scientific ranking a couple of years ago. It is, for the most part, three lanes on each side, and also, most times, a parking lot. And it’s in deep disrepair. For these reasons, New York City might make it smaller.
That’s the recommendation of a panel appointed by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, per The New York Times.
The notion of eliminating highway lanes is realistic because of another ambitious effort to move cars off the road: congestion pricing. Next year, New York will become the first American city to charge a fee to drive into the busiest areas of Manhattan.
The panel’s recommendation would still have to be adopted by the city’s Transportation Department.
Olivia Lapeyrolerie, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio, said city officials were reviewing the findings. “This is a thorny problem that defies easy solutions,” she said. “The external panel has put fresh ideas on the table.”
The panel focused on repairing a 1.5 mile section of the B.Q.E., which includes a series of 21 concrete-and-steel bridges over local roads, and is controlled by the city. The project is estimated to cost more than $1.7 billion.
The BQE, as it is colloquially known, is only a “highway” in the loosest definition of the term, since the speed limit is 45 mph but most of the time you’ll be lucky if you go one mph. You should think of it more like a city road that just happens to not have stoplights for some reason.
All of which is to say eliminating a lane from it won’t change the fundamentals of the matter, which is that it will remain gridlocked, but with the upside being that perhaps people will consider that gridlock and resort to alternate forms of transportation, and lessen the burden on New York City’s streets.
Ideally, this plan would be paired with fixes for the MTA, which operates the city’s subways, though that is not up to De Blasio but New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is bad at it.
In any case, this doesn’t mean much for enthusiasts, even New York City-living ones, since you have to drive a couple hours to get to any of the good driving roads in this area even in the best of times. And I can probably count on one hand the number of times driving on the BQE wasn’t a miserable and dangerous experience.
Also, “induced demand,” or the phenomenon of more traffic lanes actually increasing congestion, is a thing. It maybe couldn’t hurt to try the opposite.