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Local Leaders Call On Albany To OK Expedited, Cost-Cutting Construction Plan For BQE

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Downtown Brooklynites on Friday were imploring Gov. Andrew Cuomo to speed up a desperately-needed overhaul of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, saying the consequences are dire.

As CBS2 Political Reporter Marcia Kramer reported, the BQE was chock-a-block with trucks Friday, as it is every day. But what if those trucks – up to 16,000 a day, 300 an hour at the height of midday – were suddenly rerouted onto local streets in Park Slope and Downtown Brooklyn?

It would be truck-maggedon.

"Total disaster – a recipe for disaster," said Al G.

"It's too much for the kids," said Carol Rossetti of Park Slope. "You're afraid the kids are going to get hit by a truck, because they're always getting hit by trucks over here,"

"You have a lot of children walking the street; a school across the street. You have the elderly that go to church across the street," said George Jimenez of Park Slope. "It's unfair."

"It would be very congested," said Yvonne of Downtown Brooklyn.

Indeed it would, and that is why city and state officials and community leaders are demanding that Gov. Andrew Cuomo allow the critically-needed rehabilitation of the BQE to fall under the state's so-called "design-build" program.

It speeds up construction and makes it cheaper. Cuomo used it to build the Kosciuszko and Gov. Mario M. Cuomo bridges.

"A hundred fifty thousand vehicles travel this roadway every day, and this project is going to take years," state Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D-Manhattan) said during a rally Friday on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade above the crumbling roadway.

Design-build will shave two years off the construction time – getting the project done before the fragility of the roadway would force transportation officials to close it to trucks.

"If we don't have the project pretty much done, we're going to have to start to do weight restrictions and that means diverting trucks," said Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg.

"If design-build is good enough for the Kosciuszko Bridge, and it's good enough for the new Mario Cuomo Bridge, why is it not good enough for the BQE?" said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

"It seems to me that there's been construction on the BQE forever. At some point it has to come to an end," said Councilman Mark Treyger (D-47th). "Give us DB on the BQE."

It is an issue that is going to be hard to separate from politics, because it is going to involve not only Gov. Andrew Cuomo, but state Assembly Democrats and Senate Republicans – and they do not like Mayor de Blasio very much.

"The governor is the single biggest proponent of expanding design-build….. We will have discussions with the legislature about expanding it to all local governments," said a Cuomo spokesman.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) said he will fight for the project. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan (D-Smithtown) said Republicans support design-build for specific projects, but he would not commit to it for the BQE.

Thus, the mayor may have to beg.

The design-build program will save $120 million.

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