NYC launches program to automatically ticket overweight trucks on BQE

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By Dan Sears

After months of delays, the city has finally launched a crackdown on overweight trucks that drive on a crumbling stretch of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Starting this week, the city Department of Transportation will begin issuing warnings to trucks that weigh more than 80,000 pounds and cross the triple-cantilever section of the BQE in Brooklyn Heights. And on November 8, officials said those trucks will begin to receive tickets with fines of $650.

The overweight trucks will be tracked by scales installed on the roadway months ago, and license plate readers will automatically issue tickets to those that exceed the weight limit. The city previously hoped the program would go into effect by the end of 2022, but the launch was pushed back due to issues with calibrating the new weight sensors.

For now, the automated tickets will only impact trucks on the Queens-bound side of the highway. The scales are expected to roll out on the Staten Island-bound side later this year, officials said.

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DOT officials said the weight-tracking program is the first of its kind in the country.

The city estimated 155,000 vehicles drove on the 1.5-mile stretch of the triple-cantilever every day before the pandemic. About 18,000 — or 11% — of those were heavy trucks that exceeded the weight limit.

“New York City is leading the country in protecting and reimagining our critical infrastructure, and this first-in-the-nation weigh-in-motion program will be a critical tool not only to protect the roadway but also to support our aggressive efforts to re-envision a safer and greener BQE,” Mayor Adams wrote in a statement.

The launch comes as the city moves ahead on an interim plan to shore up the highway, which officials have for years said is at risk of collapsing. City officials have yet to decide how to permanently fix the section of the highway, and have so far only released rough proposals that re-engineers the triple-cantilever section with more park space above the highway.

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To extend the highway’s life, the city DOT in 2021 removed a traffic lane in each direction of the fragile stretch of the highway.

Officials said the delay to the automated ticketing program was due to the city DOT having trouble configuring the new scales to meet national standards. The state Department of Agriculture and Markets is the primary agency that oversees the calibration of government scales, primarily for meat and produce — not for trucks. The state Legislature earlier this year passed a bill that allows the city and state agencies to “jointly set calibration standards” for the weight sensors.

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