Brooklyn Eagle Reports on Kavanagh, Simon BQE Overweight Truck Enforcement Bill

Originally published in The Brooklyn Eagle on June 10, 2021.

The BQE. Eagle file photo by Paul Frangipane

On Friday, June 18, 2021, Mary Frost reported on passage of a bill authored by Senator Kavanagh and Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon that will institute and innovative "weigh-in-motion" enforcement program for overweight trucks on the BQE. The text of the story is below; the original is available via the link above.

Bill to ID, Penalize Overweight Trucks on BQE Passes Legislature
By Mary Frost
June 10, 2021

Senator Brian Kavanagh and Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon announced on Wednesday that their BQE Truck Weight bill (A.2316A and S.2740B) has passed both the New York State Assembly and Senate on Tuesday and will now head to the governor’s desk for signature. 

This is one of three topics covered in the Brooklyn Heights Association’s letter to the community early this week, and the most important one for the community. 

The bill is a breakthrough in the fight to get overweight trucks off the BQE, especially the deteriorating triple cantilever underpinning the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.  

It would establish a pilot program that uses high-tech “weigh-in-motion” systems to enforce restrictions on overweight trucks on the stretch from Atlantic Avenue to Sands Street. The identical bill passed in the Senate on June 3. 

In a statement, Kavanagh called the legislation “vital to extending the useful life of the BQE.”

“Just as the legislature has authorized speed cameras and red light cameras for public safety, deploying weigh-in-motion technology will effectively deter trucking companies from engaging in destructive and unsafe behavior, and is likely to become a standard enforcement tool,” he said.

Simon called the legislation a “critically necessary step toward creating 21st-century and beyond infrastructure” for interstate roadways.

“Currently, illegally overweight, massive trucks are in large part responsible for the rapid disintegration of the BQE triple cantilever,” she said.

The presence of thousands of overweight trucks could cause the 1.5-mile stretch to become unsafe by roughly 2025, according to a 2019 New York City Mayor’s Expert Panel report. 

The panel was headed by Carlo Scissura of the New York Building Congress; Brooklyn Heights resident Hank Gutman, a panel member, is currently the commissioner of the NYC Department of Transportation.

“Illegally overweight trucks have been a chronic problem contributing to the deteriorating condition of the BQE, and to other fragile portions of our infrastructure,” Gutman said in a statement.

Data collected between Oct. 16, 2019 and Jan. 19, 2020 showed that on the Queens-bound roadway, 11.1 percent of trucks exceeded 80,000 pounds and 27 percent exceeded the Federal Bridge Formula.

NYPD’s BQE Truck Enforcement Task Force can only physically pursue a fraction of the violations, since the alleged offenders must now be removed from the expressway and weighed on a scale. 

Weigh-in-motion systems generally use pressure-sensitive sensors installed in a strip across the roadbed to record the axle weight, gross weight and speed of vehicles that drive over them, without the need for the vehicles to stop. (Algorithms adjust the sensing systems to account for temperature changes, which can affect the sensors.) Cameras record vehicles’ license plate numbers, and a notice of fines can be automatically mailed to the vehicle’s owner, similar to the city’s automated school speed zone and red light-camera programs. 

Offenders will catch a break during the program’s first 90 days, getting off with a warning by mail. And, according to the bill, drivers will be allowed to claim that the system was “malfunctioning at the time of the alleged violation” in their defense.

A massive community mobilization – in which the Brooklyn Heights Association played a pivotal role, along with the Cobble Hill Association and other community groups in the Coalition for the BQE Transformation — halted the city’s original plan to replace the landmarked Promenade with a temporary six-lane highway during the $4 billion BQE reconstruction. 

The controversial plan, dubbed the “Highway to Hell,” would have brought the noise and pollution of 153,000 vehicles a day to the neighborhood’s street level. 

Currently, the NYC Department of Transportation is in the process of carrying out surface road work until a more workable BQE redesign and reconstruction plan is finalized. 

Simon and Kavanagh have sponsored a bill establishing a state-level dedicated Brooklyn-Queens expressway authority to oversee plans for the BQE, including, “the viability of existing roadway structures, tunnel alternatives along the BQE, and environmental justice concerns.” The bill is currently in the Senate Transportation Committee.