Kathy Hochul pitches new Brooklyn-Queens commuter rail service

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An underutilized 14-mile freight line would be converted into a new commuter “Interborough Express” service connecting neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens under a plan championed by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday.

The new transit service would run from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to Jackson Heights Heights in Queens.

During her first state of the state address, Hochul ordered the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to conduct an environmental review and identify the best transit option for the corridor — heavy rail, light rail or bus rapid transit.

“This historic project would improve transit service and job access for underserved communities in Brooklyn and Queens, serving a corridor that is currently home to 900,000 residents and 260,000 jobs, with expected growth of at least 41,000 people and 15,000 jobs in the next 25 years,” Hochul said.

“Stronger rapid transit in Brooklyn and Queens is long overdue.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers her first State of the State
Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal would see a new commuter rail line go from Bay Ridge to Jackson Heights.
Hans Pennink/Pool via REUTERS

The proposal is largely modeled after the Triboro Plan advanced by the Regional Planning Association, which recommended providing rail service connecting the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn by utilizing right-of-way freight lines.

RPA President Tom Wright said, “We are especially pleased to see Governor Hochul propose the Interborough Express, which will utilize existing railroad tracks to create new transit services in Brooklyn and Queens — and has long been a priority for RPA.”

The populations of both boroughs have increased significantly in recent decades, but many parts of Queens and Brooklyn lack accessible transit options and many commuters must make two or more connections to get to their destination.

Nearly 60 percent of households in Brooklyn and 40 percent in Queens do not own cars, the governor said.

Rail plan
Hochul’s plan is based on Triboro Plan that had recommended providing rail service to connect the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn.
Courtesy of Regional Plan Association

The planned line would connect residents and workers to the Long Island Railroad and 17 subway lines, significantly expanding access to jobs and services across the metro area, she said.

The Interborough Express would serve roughly 129,000 residents who make daily trips within or across Brooklyn and Queens as well as 85,000 commuters who work in Manhattan.

“For hundreds of thousands of people in the Interborough Express right-of-way, crossing from neighborhood to neighborhood is slow and tedious because existing subway lines are oriented toward Manhattan. Yet many new work opportunities, schools, and services are within the outer boroughs themselves,” she said.

Councilman Robert Holden spoke highly of the transit proposal.
Councilman Robert Holden spoke highly of the transit proposal.
Courtesy of Regional Plan Associ

Lawmakers applauded Hochul for pushing a plan to expand interborough transit service that would serve their communities in Brooklyn and Queens.

“The right of way is there. It’s a good idea to have rail service serving our neighborhoods,” said Assemblyman Peter Abbate Jr., whose southern Brooklyn district borders the freight line.

“Right now I get more calls from constituents complaining about garbage being thrown along the tracks,” he quipped.

Queens Councilman Robert Holden, who lives near the freight line in Middle Village, said, “We are in a transit desert. We have a right of way that is currently under-utilized. It would bring more public transit to my district.”

Gov. Kathy Hochul delivers her first State of the State
Hochul noted how around 60 percent of Brooklyn residents do not have a car.
Hans Pennink/Pool via REUTERS

Aside from cutting down on commuting trips, Hochul noted the Interborough Express would spur economic development, with the new line connecting to large
shopping hubs in Middle Village and Jackson Heights.

The new service would be less costly to construct and open faster because it use an existing rail freight line.

The governor said the new line also would provide greater transit “equity” by serving neighborhoods where 71 percent of residents are minorities.

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