BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Astoria elected officials gathered on Friday morning to celebrate the near completion of a project that would accommodate trucks by allowing them to remain on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway (BQE), rather than forcing them to take detours on side streets that clog up traffic in western Queens neighborhoods.
Large trucks have long been required to exit the Grand Central Parkway to gain entry to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge or BQE, thereby forcing them to drive on Astoria Boulevard. Elected officials said that this increases traffic and causes more fumes to be emitted in Astoria.
Under a new plan, trucks up to 14 feet tall can remain on the Grand Central Parkway to the BQE. Currently, trucks taller than 12-feet–6-inches are forced to exit the parkway and use local routes.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) wrote a joint letter to the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) in May suggesting that the agency lower the roadbed to accommodate large trucks that have long been detoured onto Astoria Boulevard.
The DOT approved the request, lowering a portion of the road so that large rigs could pass under four different street overpasses.
“Allowing trucks to remain on the BQE is a common-sense solution that will go a long way toward alleviating the congestion on local roads that burdens so many Astoria residents,” said Crowley.
Gianaris said that although he passed a law a decade ago that allowed trucks to stay on the BQE from the RFK Triborough Bridge, there was still much that needed to be done by the state to ensure that the trucks could fit under the overpasses.
“With this fix now being implemented, Astorians can breathe easier that our air will be cleaner, traffic will be reduced and the unbearable noise and damaged streets to which we’ve grown accustomed will be lessened,” said Gianaris.
The project started in November, increasing clearances at 31st Street and 69th Street. The $2.5 million project consists of lowering the roadway, micro-milling the pavement, lowering catch basins, and removing any signage indicating that trucks are to be diverted to local roads.
“Lowering the roadway to allow trucks to stay on the highway will bring benefits to traffic safety and our environment,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria). “Astoria Boulevard, known for its highway feel, will experience less truck traffic to make the street feel more incorporated into the community. This will benefit our seniors and families who walk and drive along it. We all deserve access to streets without unbearable traffic congestion, loud noises and heavy fumes.”
The roadway is projected to be completed before the end of the year.
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144, firstname.lastname@example.org or @reporter_ariel.