Train line between Brooklyn and Queens could present options for LIRR commuters

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A proposal to build a new train line between Brooklyn and Queens on the LIRR property could provide Long Island commuters with new travel options, but the project is expected to overcome skepticism from transportation experts and commuters.

Governor Kathy Hochul, in her state-of-the-state address on Wednesday, announced that the “Interborough Express” was a key transportation priority for her administration, and called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to move from there ‘forward with a planned environmental review of the proposal.

The proposal, which transportation experts say could cost as much as $ 2 billion, would use 14 miles of LIRR tracks to transport commuters between Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Astoria, Queens. The service would operate on the Bay Ridge Branch of the railway, which ceased to operate passenger service in the 1920s and is now used for freight transportation.

Details of the service are discussed in an MTA feasibility study that has been underway since January 2020, and the MTA plans to hold public hearings on the proposal as part of an environmental review. Among the options being considered are “rapid transit” buses or light rail trains, which would share the use of the route with freight trains.

While not being offered as an extension of the LIRR, the route could potentially connect to several stations, including Woodside on the LIRR main line and East New York on its Brooklyn branch. It would also connect to 17 different metro lines – potentially serving up to 100,000 passengers, the governor said.

The Regional Plan Association, which first pioneered the idea for a new rail system along the Bayridge branch more than 25 years ago, said it was “especially happy” to see Hochul in make it a priority. The group estimates that the rail link could cut travel times between Brooklyn and Queens by 30 minutes.

“The Interborough Express would be a transformational addition to Brooklyn and Queens, reducing travel time and helping neighborhoods and communities become cleaner, greener and more equitable,” Hochul said.

MTA Acting Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber said the project would “intelligently reuse existing infrastructure to add public transport and create access to jobs, education and opportunities for so many. ‘residents of Queens and Brooklyn’.

Lisa Daglian, executive director of the MTA’s Standing Citizen Advisory Committee, said the new rail link could also be a boon to Long Island, as it would provide new options for commuters from Nassau and Suffolk to jobs elsewhere. than Manhattan.

“I really think that would appeal to the people of Long Island… because it would take Manhattan out of the center of everyone’s destination,” Daglian said. “There are a lot of employment centers that are open, that are opening up and that can move all over Queens and Brooklyn… Not necessarily having to go to Penn Station or Jamaica or Grand Central and then come back. backwards, will save people time and money. “

The new rail link could also serve “reverse commuters” to and from Long Island, Daglian said.

But Larry Penner said he saw “very little benefit to Long Island” from the project. Penner, a transportation historian, writer and advocate who worked for the Federal Transit Administration for 31 years, noted that the LIRR commute could already get worse for commuters in Brooklyn in the years to come, as the LIRR has said it anticipates to run the majority of Brooklyn’s service. a dedicated Jamaica track that will require the transfer of most passengers. Another transfer point in eastern New York wouldn’t appeal to most runners, Penner said.

“I seriously question the viability of this,” said Penner, who also questioned Hochul’s plan to use President Joe Biden’s $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure package to kickstart the effort. . “Even if this project becomes reality in 2022, you wouldn’t see a full funding grant deal or a shovel in the ground until 2030 at the earliest. It’s pure fantasy.”

Former LIRR commuter Rich Serrano, 31, who moved from Long Beach to Williamsburg in 2020, said he would “definitely use” the Interborough Express if it was available today.

“It is painful to visit my friends in Astoria due to the lack of north-south orientation [subway] lines, ”said Serrano, who works in construction and doesn’t expect the system to be up and running until he is in his 50s.

“The problem would be any new interconnect stations that would have to be built. This will be what takes the longest,” Serrano said. “I… think that would be a fantastic idea, but the reality of its fruition seems grim.”

What there is to know

Governor Kathy Hochul in her State of the State address supported a proposal to build a 14-mile railway line between Brooklyn and Queens, and asked the MTA to go ahead with an environmental study.

The Interborough Express would run from Bay Ridge in Astoria, and could include several new stations and links to 17 subway lines and Long Island Rail Road.

Supporters of the project said the new line could benefit Long Island commuters by creating new routes to employment centers in Brooklyn and Queens, and helping transport “reverse commuters” to and from jobs on Long Island.

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