In order to wiggle around a century-old restriction on the height of rail cars traveling along the Bushwick Branch in Maspeth, the New York & Atlantic Railway is in the process of bidding out a project to lower the grade lines of railroad tracks throughout southwest Queens.
New York & Atlantic railcars are mandated to be no more than 16 feet tall while traveling along the Bushwick Branch, which runs through Brooklyn and Maspeth, though 17 feet is the limit on all other New York & Atlantic branches in the city and on Long Island.
New York & Atlantic President Paul Victor said the plan is to reduce the grade lines along 1,050 feet of the branch in the area around the overpass near the intersection of Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan Avenue in order to allow 17-foot tall railcars to legally pass through the area.
“The objective of the project is to increase the clearance of the height of what railroad cars can be west of the Fresh Pond Rail Yard,” Victor said. “We want to lower the tracks enough to accommodate equipment that’s 17 feet tall.”
He said many of the cars that are 17 feet tall are refrigerated, carrying food and other items, and the height restrictions along the Bushwick Branch limits the company’s ability to do business west of the Fresh Pond Rail Yard.
“We carry those cars to other destinations on Long Island but not to Fresh Pond,” Victor said. “The principal objective here is to remove that impediment and better serve our customers.”
In addition to the grade line reduction, a 19-foot-long bridge, which won’t be visible from the street, over the sewer line running underneath Metropolitan Avenue will be constructed to eliminate the weight of the trains on the sewer pipe.
“We can’t raise the street and we can’t lower the sewer. So we have one option, to lower the track,” he said. “It’s a bridge that no one will see because it will be underground.”
While the track is being lowered, temporary tracks will be laid alongside the existing ones to avoid any disruptions in service, but Victor doesn’t expect any impacts in terms of noise pollution or any other disruptions in the area during temporary track work.
“There will be almost no construction trucks and it’s not near streets or residences,” he said of the area where the sections of track being altered are located. “Unless you live under the bridge, you won’t really be impacted at all.”
Track realignment and the construction of a crossover between the Bushwick and Montauk branches at the Fresh Pond Rail Yard will also be completed during the process.
A pre-bid meeting for interested construction firms was held on Wednesday and Victor said he hopes the company will close on a bid by next Friday.
Victor could not discuss an estimated cost of the project while bids were still being gathered, but he did say he fully expects the project to be completed in March 2015.