The Interborough Express, a proposed commuter rail route from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights, will be constructed for light rail, according to documents released last week in coordination with Gov. Hochul’s State of the State address.
The aim of the 14-mile proposed route is to link Queens and Brooklyn residents with up to 17 subway lines and a number of Long Island Rail Road connections in order to reduce travel times.
The service would run in an existing right of way that carries freight rail and would have an estimated cost of $5.5 billion. Hochul, in the 275-page booklet accompanying her address, said her office and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will complete environmental studies in “the coming months” with the aim of adding it to the MTA’s next five-year capital plan.
“I am committed to making our transit more accessible, affordable, and safe,” Hochul said in a Jan. 10 press release. “These actions will build on our successes and broaden access to transit resources for New Yorkers.”
“Moving forward with Light Rail for the Interborough Express means better access to jobs, education and economic opportunities for some 900,000 New Yorkers in Queens and Brooklyn,” said MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber.
The project would include several new connections in neighborhoods that currently lack efficient connections to each other, and in some cases, to Manhattan.
Queens station sites considered in the planning study include Ridgewood, Middle Village, Maspeth, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, the latter just three blocks west of the 74th Street-Broadway subway and bus hub on Roosevelt Avenue.
Seventeen subway lines would be connected to the route, including the 2, 3, 5, 7, A, B, C, D, E, F, J, L, M, N, Q, R and Z lines. Service to and from Brooklyn would include stations in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Lots, Brownsville, East New York and Bushwick.
On page 224 of the SOS booklet, Hochul’s office said the engineering analysis outlined in the planning study strongly supports light rail over other considered options including buses and conventional passenger trains because of the lowest cost per estimated rider.
In a related press release, the Governor’s Office said other factors supporting the light rail option include:
• capacity and speed, with trains capable of carrying 360 people combining light rail’s quick acceleration and short dwell times to make it the fastest of the three options;
• the ability to build and operate light rail equipment and infrastructure within the existing railroad right-of-way through 96 percent of the corridor; and
• the ability to run on streets for short distances, allowing the MTA to avoid construction of a complex and costly tunnel at pinch points.
Federal regulations would require physical separation of the freight tracks and the light rail infrastructure.
The planning study indicates up to 115,000 daily weekday riders would use the 14-mile line with approximately 34.6 million riders annually. Travel times between Brooklyn and Queens could be reduced by up to 30 minutes each way, depending on travel distance.
The MTA held town hall meetings last year and said it received more than 700 comments on its website over a six-month period. The agency said public outreach will continue as the project progresses.