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Smash hits: BQE on-ramp worst in city

1/8/08
for The Brooklyn Paper
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It’s official — the Brooklyn–Queens Expressway on-ramp at Congress Street is one of the most dangerous in the state.

Anecdotally, of course, the Cobble Hill interchange is notorious — one man has even created a blog to monitor the all-too-frequent collisions there.

But after The Brooklyn Paper began an investigation that revealed the dangers of the substandard on-ramp, state officials now say they will, for the first time, put the ramp on their forthcoming list of the most dangerous roadways in the entire Empire State.

“We recognize that it has what we call ‘non-standard’ features,” said state Department of Transportation spokesman Adam Levine.

Photographs from local rubbernecker-turned-blogger Werner Cohn put those flaws into stark relief, showing crashes that occurred because of the lack of an acceleration lane for drivers entering the westbound BQE just south of Atlantic Avenue.

BOOM: Jan. 8: At least three fire-trucks and an ambulance rush to the scene after a major collision.

BANG: Dec. 22, 2007: A minivan rear-ends an SUV, as both were entering from the cursed on-ramp.

CRASH: Oct. 24, 2007: A tractor-trailer jackknifes onto the highway, cutting off one lane of traffic, because it can’t handle the curving entrance path.

And those are just three examples.

There were 113 crashes reported in 2005 and 2006, the last state study period. Countless other collisions went unreported, so they were not part of that study.

The 113 crashes are six times higher than the state average for comparable highways, state transportation officials said.

Cohn confirmed that the on-ramp is an almost-daily problem with a long history.

“It’s been a problem since it was built, but we didn’t have the kind of traffic we have today.” Cohn said.

In fact, it’s a problem by design.

State officials say there is literally zero feet after the stop sign for drivers to accelerate to the 45-mph speed limit before merging with three lanes of traffic, which often speeds towards Hamilton Avenue at well above the legal limit.

Federal highway standards say that such an entrance actually needs to be 350–720 feet long, though those standards were developed after the BQE was completed in 1964.

Local drivers are well aware of the risk they take every time they get behind the wheel.

“I’ve never gotten in an accident, but it makes me nervous,” said Erin Hall, who lives on Columbia Street.

“The traffic is speedy there and it’s hard to tell what lane the cars are in, so I’m always really cautious.”

She has good reason to be on the safe side.

Aside from Cohn’s advocacy for increasing safety, the NYPD has asked the DOT to improve the problematic ramp, according to Levine.

Building a better entrance for the 6,000 vehicles that use it every day would require a major engineering feat because of a nearby bridge overpass. That’s why Cohn thinks the ramp should just be closed, even if that creates a new nuisance.

“If you can save a single life, all that inconvenience is worth it,” he said.

The state considered that option, but ruled it out.

“There’s a hospital near there — and farther south, there are not enough full-time entrance ramps in that area,” said Levine.

Updated 4:35 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Chris from Park Slope says:
I use the ramp everyday & i do feel like i'm taking my life into my own hands everytime i go near it.
Feb. 15, 2008, 8:33 am
Anon from Red Hook says:
Couldn't they take out part of the adjacent park whete the tennis courts are to redesign the on/off ramps to allow for required accelaration space? ... Loss of park space wouldn't be so bad as long as the Brooklyn Bridge Park was completed out to Atlantic Ave.
Feb. 15, 2008, 8:44 am
HB from Carroll Gardens says:
Having lived in this area my entire life, those tennis courts are heavily used and absolutely needed. If someone can't negotiate that on-ramp, they shouldn't be driving. (corrected misspelling of Carroll Gardens).
Feb. 15, 2008, 7:20 pm
Paco from Cobble Hill says:
I've had lots of experience with this dangerous on ramp and wonder if the simplest cheapest solution would be to simply close off the right most lane of the westbound BQE a few hundred feet BEFORE this onramp so there'd be no way for oncoming traffic to be in new traffic's way. Not sure if merging the 3 lanes to 2 is feasible or dangerous for the roadway before you hit the onramp, but if not... then simply adding some 'merge left now' signs and painting strips over the right most lane might get speeding traffic out of harm's way and give the cars just entering the BQE a chance to accelerate safely. right?
Feb. 19, 2008, 12:39 pm
Spud from The Hood says:
Just now they're realizing that this onramp is dangerous? It's been this way for decades and has ALWAYS been dangerous.
Feb. 19, 2008, 12:55 pm
Andy from South Brooklyn says:
As a paramedic in this neighborhood for the past two decades, and having personally responded to more MVAs at that BQE Exit/Entrance than I can count, I have several thoughts:

1) It's not just the entrance, the exit is too short and too steep, resulting in numerous overturns; and while these aren't as numerous as accidents on the entrance, they have the potential for greater injury.

2) While there have indeed been many accidents there, I am hard-pressed to think of any I would consider "major" (i.e. amputations, multiple deaths, decapitations, etc.), most are fender-benders. Keep in mind that the sheer number of emergency vehicles responding to a scene does not necessarily correspond to the severity of the incident. Try calling for just *one* piece of fire apparatus and you'll see what I mean (hey, the heroes have to justify the OT somehow).

3)HB, tennis courts are nice.. not "absolutely needed". Oxygen is absolutely needed. Let's keep things in perspective. And don't even get me started on who should be mailing their licenses back to Albany... :)
Feb. 19, 2008, 1:27 pm
whome from Carroll Gardens says:
I lived on 4th Place and Henry Street, and at least once a month I would wake up in the middle of the night to some horrifying crash noise on the said ramp. Once a Crisco truck turnned over back in the late 60s, everyone in the neighborhood had pleny of Crisco and cake mix.
Feb. 21, 2008, 4:26 pm
whome from Carroll Gardens says:
I lived on 4th Place and Henry Street, and at least once a month I would wake up in the middle of the night to some horrifying crash noise on the said ramp. Once a Crisco truck turnned over back in the late 60s, everyone in the neighborhood had plenty of Crisco and cake mix.
Feb. 21, 2008, 4:28 pm

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