Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, New York

Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, New York

North America


Get started Brooklyn
End Queens
Length 12 mi
Length 17 km
Gowanus Expressway

26 Hamilton Avenue

27 Atlantic Avenue

28A Cadman Plaza West

28B Brooklyn Bridge

29A Manhattan Bridge

29B Tillary Street

30 Flushing Avenue

31 Wythe Avenue

32A Williamsburg Bridge

32B Metropolitan Avenue

33 Humboldt Street

34 Meeker Avenue

35 → Manhattan / Long Island

39 Queens Boulevard

40 Roosevelt Avenue

41 Northern Boulevard

42 Grand Central Parkway → LaGuardia Airport

43 30th Avenue

44 Astoria Boulevard

45 Grand Central Parkway → LaGuardia Airport

Triborough Bridge

According to Existingcountries, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway or BQE is part of Interstate 278 in New York. The highway runs through western Brooklyn and Queens in New York City.

Travel directions

At the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel ( I-478 ) the Gowanus Expressway becomes the BQE. The highway is then deepened and has 2×3 lanes. You pass the harbors and through the center of Brooklyn Heights. Here the highway is double-decked because of the limited space. There then follows an exit with the Brooklyn Bridge and immediately after that with the Manhattan Bridge. The highway only has 2×2 lanes over a few hundred meters. The narrowing is an important bottleneck. The highway then temporarily runs east, only to run north again at Fort Greene. In Williamsburg the highway is deepened again and one crosses the Williamsburg Bridge. The highway then runs elevated, crossing the Brooklyn-Queens border via the Kosciuzko Bridge. There are also 2×3 lanes here. At a large cemetery one then crosses the Long Island Expressway which bears the number Interstate 495. There are almost no emergency lanes on the highway. One then crosses Queens Boulevard, after which the road turns north again. The highway then changes from below ground level to elevated. In the Astoria neighborhood, the BQE splits into a western and eastern branch. The east branch runs to the Grand Central Parkway, while the west branch runs to the Triborough Bridge. In between is a cemetery. The highway then deepens to the bridge.



According to ANYCOUNTYPRIVATESCHOOLS, in 1936, a link between the Gowanus Parkway and the Triborough Bridge was proposed by the Regional Plan Association. The plan was initially intended to compete with the Brooklyn-Battery Bridge (which opened as a tunnel in 1950). The “Brooklyn-Queens Connecting Highway” was intended as a highway bypass through dense industrial and residential areas of Brooklyn and Queens. The highway also had to connect the various connections across the East River, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Williamsburg Bridge and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. The highway was supposed to relieve the traffic in Brooklyn and Queens like no other project had done.


The BQE seen from the Manhattan Bridge.

The first section of the BQE opened between Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn and Queens Boulevard in Queens in 1939, including the Kosciuszko Bridge over Newtown Creek. Several bridges had been built in this area since the 18th century. The bridge was named after Tadeusz Kościuszko, a Polish military engineer who contributed to the war between the revolutionary army and the British in 1777.

In 1940, Robert Mosesthe rest of the BQE, which he saw as a major missing link in New York’s highway network, and of military importance, as there were naval ports along the East River. The roads around the Brooklyn Bridge and the Williamsburg Bridge were narrow and acted like a funnel. Moses proposed a six-lane highway costing $5.1 million and $7 million for expropriation. The New York City Department of Planning then determined the route. At the end of 1945, Robert Moses involved the BQE in the post-war development plan of the main road network. Under his supervision, a 2×3 lane stretch of highway between Williamsburg Bridge and Meeker Avenue was opened in 1950. At the time, Robert Moses rented a penthouse overlooking the highway’s construction.

The route of the BQE meant that several blocks, often dilapidated homes, had to be demolished. The road didn’t go through Brooklyn Heights, but looped around it, over the low hills along the East River, partially double-decked. The original 1947 plan envisioned a six-lane highway cutting through Brooklyn Heights. Opponents came up with a triple-deck alternative, with two decks for traffic and a park below. Robert Moses agreed, on the condition that the park would not become a private park, but would be open to the public. This section opened in 1954 and gave motorists spectacular views of the Lower Manhattan skyline. The park was eventually realized above the highway.

In August 1958, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway was renamed Interstate 278, clearing the way for federal dollars to pay for 90% of the remaining construction and reconstruction of the existing sections. In late 1958, I-87 was briefly proposed for the section from the Williamsburg Bridge to the Triborough Bridge, the current beginning of Interstate 87. In April 1959 this plan was abandoned and the BQE was numbered I-278 for its entire length. The last section of the Brooklyn BQE opened in 1960 at the Brooklyn Naval Port. The highway was not yet complete, there was still a part missing in Queens. In 1964 the last section of the BQE opened between Queens Boulevard andNorthern Blvd. The 16-kilometer stretch of highway ultimately cost $137 million.

Later developments

The double-deck part of the BQE.

Because the bulk of the BQE was built for the Interstate Highway system, the highway seriously failed to meet the Interstate Highway design requirements; missing hard shoulder, very short slip roads, sharp bends and confusing left turns. To address this safety issue, the highway was narrowed from 2×3 to 2×2 lanes, especially at the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and a maximum speed of 70 km/h was set for the entire BQE. The north end, which is part of the Grand Central Parkway, is off-limits to freight traffic, which must use Astoria Boulevard.

In 1966, the interchange between the BQE and the Long Island Expressway in Queens was tackled. The project cost $30 million and was one of the most extensive of Interstate Highways at the time. From the mid-1980s, the BQE received a major reconstruction, in which wide lanes were created, connections were improved and visibility was improved. Emergency lanes were not built, however. A left exit was also removed. In Williamsburg, a double viaduct was replaced by a single wider viaduct. In the 1990s and 2000s, plans were proposed to roof parts of the BQE, with public facilities on top. In 1999, a tunnel was also proposed on the elevated parts of the BQE, which would not allow freight traffic to use it.

Replacement Kosciuszko Bridge

The 1939 Kosciuszko Bridge was obsolete with six lanes, no emergency lanes, and sub-optimal alignment. It was considered one of the biggest traffic bottlenecks in New York. That is why the bridge has been replaced by a new cable-stayed bridge. The new bridge is lower than the original bridge due to reduced port activities along Newtown Creek. The project cost $555 million and contracts were signed on May 29, 2014. It is New York’s first new major bridge since the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964. On April 27, 2017, the first new span opened to traffic. The old bridge was subsequently blown up in the summer of 2017. After that, the second cable-stayed bridge was built, which opened on August 29, 2019.

Traffic intensities

Exit Location 2008
26 Hamilton Avenue 168,000
27 Atlantic Avenue 155,000
28 Brooklyn Bridge 143,000
29 Manhattan Bridge 106,000
30 Flushing Avenue 92,000
32 Williamsburg Bridge 107,000
33 Humboldt Street 142,000
35 121,000
37 Roosevelt Avenue 88,000
41 Northern Boulevard 112,000
42 Grand Central Parkway 59,000
44 Astoria Boulevard 51,000
45 Grand Central Parkway 104,000
46 Triborough Bridge 166,000

Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, New York