One of the first major urban controlled access highway
s in America. It is today one of the most difficult to drive on and probably the most frequently jammed freeway in the eastern U.S.
The 'BQE', as it is commonly known, was a project of Robert Moses, the master highway builder whose vision for New York City was to have it be one big tangle of freeways. He got at least partially there with the BQE. Features of the 40s era freeway design include narrow lanes, sharp turns, and impossibly short and steep entrance and exit ramps. It is basically impossible to get up to freeway speed on the short ramps that lead from the surface streets at a steep angle to the mostly elevated freeway. Even if one could do so, a car entering the BQE is often met with a stop sign right at the merge point of the entrance ramp! Not that it is all that important to be able to reach freeway speed, because the BQE hardly ever runs at it. The only redeeming feature I can think of is that the elevated section through downtown Brooklyn and past the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, surrounded by tall buildings and with a view of Manhattan, looks like something out of one of those road race video games.
It's southern end is in Bay Ridge in southern Brooklyn, where it results from the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the Belt Parkway. It travels north along the harbor, elevated through Sunset Park and Red Hook, at which point it is also known as the Gawanus Expressway. Sometimes the highway in its totality is referred to as the 'Gawanus-BQE combo'.
North from there it is in a trench through Caroll Gardens, then in a double-decked structure under the Brooklyn Heights promenade, whereupon it turns east and is elevated through the Navy Yard area and then north through Williamsburg and Greenpoint. It crosses the Newtown Creek into Queens on the Kosciusco Bridge, then continues elevated through Queens to its end at the Triboro Bridge. When the Verrazano Bridge was completed, the BQE was linked to the Staten Island Expressway and became part of Interstate Highway 278.
The section through Brooklyn Heights was the last to be completed, not being finished until the early 50s, and was the locus of a preservation battle that helped end the freeway-crazed madness of Robert Moses. Read about it here.