Kathy Hochul announces ‘next phase’ of Brooklyn-Queens transit link

Governor Kathy Hochul’s plan to build a transit link between Brooklyn and Queens gained momentum on Thursday as she released an initial MTA study of the project.

As part of this, an underutilized 14-mile freight line would be converted into a new “Interborough Express” service linking the neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens.

“I am delighted to announce that we have completed the feasibility study,” Hochul said at a news conference at the Brooklyn terminus of the proposed line. “And what that does is launch the next phase.”

“We know we have a way forward, and that starts with the completion of the feasibility study that I’m announcing right now,” she said.

Backed by local politicians like Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, the new longtime commuter service would run from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to Jackson Heights in Queens, winding through Borough Park, East Flatbush, Bushwick, Ridgewood and Maspeth on the road.

Governor Kathy Hochul has released an initial MTA study of her plan to build a transit link between Brooklyn and Queens.
Paul Martinca

Much of Queens and Brooklyn are difficult and time-consuming to travel from each other, as many trips between the two boroughs require bus and subway transfers and travel to Manhattan.

“The Interborough Express is a project that has the potential to provide much-needed public transit access to Brooklyn and Queens,” said U.S. Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who represents Manhattan and Brooklyn.

The Regional Plan Association-backed transit project was included in Hochul’s first state address earlier this month, when it asked the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to conduct an assessment and identify the best transit option for the corridor – heavy rail, light rail or bus. rapid transit.

Now, the MTA will initiate another feasibility study, supplemented by an extensive public outreach process, to decide which mode of transit would be used for the proposal, Hochul said.

Hochul noted that “we don’t have any answers yet” on which option will work best.

MTA President Janno Lieber said potential construction could take about three to five years.
Paul Martinca

The planned line would connect residents and workers to the Long Island Rail Road and 17 subway lines, the governor said. The Interborough Express would serve about 129,000 residents who commute within or through Brooklyn and Queens as well as 85,000 commuters who work in Manhattan, she said.

MTA Chairman Janno Lieber told reporters Thursday that the transit line would be priced at “single-digit billion dollars,” and construction would take three to five years and begin after an environmental review. federal for about two years.

“We’re doing a federally compliant environmental review because we want to make sure it can qualify for federal money — because the federal money is starting to flow,” he explained.

A map of the proposed Interboro Railroad published by the MTA.
A map of the proposed transit link published by the MTA on January 5, 2022.

“For a project of this complexity and scale, having that right of way to work with from the start is an incredible head start and we’re going to use it,” Lieber said.

Also on Thursday, the MTA provided a 21-page presentation that laid out the potential project with additional details in response to a freedom of information request from The Post – notable both for what it included and what he omitted.

It presented three potential versions of the new service: metro-style commuter trains running alongside freight service; rail service that would be separate from freight service and use trolley-type trains likely powered by overhead wires; or right of way reserved for buses.

Currently, up to three freight trains travel the route each day, but the MTA has preserved space for future freight service, in line with Nadler’s intention to build a tunnel between Brooklyn and New Jersey since decades.

The MTA says those requirements mean that segments of the route through Brooklyn would have to be elevated above freight lanes due to safety requirements if it pursued light rail or busway options. Heavier commuter trains must meet federal requirements to run alongside freight trains.

The document does not include an exact project cost or timeline for it, but raising portions of the route would likely significantly increase the price and add construction time.

Kathy Hochul
Governor Hochul’s transit plan has won praise from some local politicians.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

If completed, the project would mean faster trips directly between boroughs without stopping in Manhattan, with streetcars and light rail buses running between Jackson Heights and Bay Ridge in just 40 minutes or less. Heavier trains running alongside freight would take at least 45 minutes to complete the journey.

Local politicians praised Hochul for pulling the project out of the station.

“For far too many families and communities in Queens, the inability to move between boroughs quickly and efficiently has been an unnecessary detriment to economic health and, quite frankly, the ability to grow,” Richards said. , a former councilman representing parts of southeastern Queens. “By transforming these existing freight lines, connecting Bay Ridge and Jackson Heights…we can now connect thousands of families in every borough while reducing commute times.”

Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso thanked the governor for “following through” and “not hesitating” to move the project forward.

“It’s a rare thing, when it comes to transport infrastructure,” he said.

Two South Brooklyn lawmakers also held out hope for the Interborough Express. “How many times do we have unused lanes? Let’s put a train on it and build it,” Justin Brannan (D-Bay Ridge) told The Post. “Any new train line that can get us out of South Brooklyn is a win.”

In a statement, State Sen. Andrew Gournades (D-South Brooklyn) said the plan is a “game changer” that “has the power to unlock economic and cultural opportunity” in multiple neighborhoods across Brooklyn and the Queens.

“Ensuring New Yorkers can support local businesses, grow their careers and invest in their communities will be key to our city’s recovery,” he added.

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