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Queens Chronicle

Rail study results are delayed ... yet again

Dueling opinions on whether the wait is good or bad for train advocates

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Posted: Thursday, April 12, 2018 10:30 am

Even the MTA’s studies are delayed.

Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato (D-Rockaway Park) announced Tuesday that the results of the transit agency’s probe into whether trains can once again run on the abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line will not be released until this summer — more than a year after the public was originally supposed to know the proposal’s fate.

“Am I surprised that the MTA has yet to release the results of the evaluation? No. Am I disappointed? We all are. We all had expectations and were looking forward to a favorable on-time evaluation,” she said in a prepared statement.

An MTA spokesman declined to comment on this story.

The study was announced by former Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder in March 2016, and was scheduled to be completed a year later.

But Pheffer Amato announced then that it would take another 12 months to see if trains could run on the line between Rego Park and Ozone Park.

The probe was expanded at that time to have New York City Transit and the Long Island Rail Road, both MTA agencies, also look into the idea, and require an outside contractor help evaluate the possibility of rebuilding a line there, and include “specific criteria in the final report that are meant to better illustrate the feasibility of the proposal.”

The lawmaker was supposed to be briefed on the results by the end of last week, according to her chief of staff, but was notified Tuesday by an MTA representative that the summer is the new end date.

Although she’s disappointed in the longer wait period, the assemblywoman believes there will be good news for train supporters.

“The MTA, the LIRR and NYCT are getting the message from our continued advocacy and outpouring of demand from the community, and, at long last, they’re giving the RBRL a serious look — even if it’s taking a year longer than originally expected,” she said in a statement. “We’ve waited this long, and I anticipate hearing big developments soon.”

One transportation expert is not so sure Pheffer Amato will receive good news from the MTA.

Larry Penner, a retired official at the U.S. Department of Transportation, said the transit agency would not sit on the study if it was in favor of the rail proposal.

“In my professional experience in 31 years, they already know what’s contained in the study because the study was developer over many, many months,” Penner told the Chronicle in a telephone interview on Tuesday. “It’s not as if the MTA is being given all this data and now they need three months to digest it ... I think what it is, is it’s very bad news they’re trying to politically massage.”

Furthermore, delaying the results means neither the MTA nor any other agency cannot apply for federal or state funding until they are released.

“If they want federal funding, you need to have a dialogue with the Federal Transit Administration and that can take six months or a year before you’re even admitted to the New Starts program,” Penner said. “It makes no sense at all. I would say to the advocates for rail on the old Rockaway branch of the Long Island Rail Road that this is bad news.”

There are those who may be celebrating that fact, as many would like to see the span turn into a 3.5-mile stretch of parkland known as the QueensWay.

The group behind that plan, Friends of QueensWay, has already released renderings of what it might look like and plans to have the first stretch completed by 2020.

The state has provided funding to both the park and rail ideas, but has given more to the former.

Those advocating for the QueensWay have also expressed concerns over the elimination of parkland, specifically the Forest Hills Little League’s fields on Fleet Street — and possible disturbances to residents neighboring the line.

Trains were taken off the line in 1960, partially due to low ridership. Pheffer Amato, and other rail backers, say the Rockaway peninsula and the southern part of the borough’s mainland are in desperate need of new transportation options.

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Welcome to the discussion.

1 comment:

  • pvrjr posted at 8:45 pm on Fri, Apr 13, 2018.

    pvrjr Posts: 315

    Given the political climate on the city, state and federal governments, I guess that the balance tips into the Queensway's favor. [sad]