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Feds deny $800 million NYC request to help fund BQE Downtown Brooklyn rebuild

Part of the BQE is on a cantilever structure beneath the Brooklyn Heights promenade.
Mark Lennihan/AP
Part of the BQE is on a cantilever structure beneath the Brooklyn Heights promenade.

Plans to rehab part of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway hit a speed bump when the Federal Highway Administration denied a city Department of Transportation request for $800 million for the project.

The funding — sought under the Biden administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law — was not included in a list of awards released by the highway agency in January.

City officials insisted Tuesday the snub is not a fatal blow to the project.

“We are committed to delivering a long-term fix for the city-owned portion of the BQE while developing projects to reconnect communities along the highway’s entire corridor in Brooklyn,” said Mona Bruno, a city Transportation Department spokeswoman.

Bruno said DOT officials continue to work on plans for the city-owned portion of the highway through Downtown Brooklyn and beneath Brooklyn Heights, and that the agency plans to re-apply for the grant in the future.

“This is only the beginning,” she said.

The city controls 1.5 miles of the BQE that includes the structurally sketchy triple cantilever structure under the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The remainder of the highway is controlled by the state Department of Transportation.

The triple cantilever — in which northbound and southbound lanes are stacked on top of one another — has long been in need of serious repair.

While interim repairs are ongoing, DOT officials have taken the need for an overhaul as an opportunity to “re-imagine” the highway, and released plans in 2023 that showed the cantilever area covered over with tiered green space.

The triple cantilever sees some 150,000 vehicles a day, according to city data, and its lanes are already narrower than current federal requirements.

DOT officials expect the full cost of rehabbing the central section of the BQE will come to $5.5 billion.

Bruno, the DOT spokesperson, said that the feds’ decision not to fund the grant proposal would not affect the project’s timeline. Critical repairs to to be finished on the city-owned portion of the roadway by 2028, and the entire project is to be done by 2033.

The next application period for this batch of federal funds is expected to open later this year.