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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / MTA approves study of passenger service on freight-only Long Island branch NEWSWIRE

MTA approves study of passenger service on freight-only Long Island branch NEWSWIRE

By Ralph Spielman | January 23, 2020

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New York & Atlantic Railway’s Fresh Pond Yard, as seen from a cab of an NY&A locomotive. The MTA is funding a study of passenger service on the current freight-only Bay Ridge branch served by the NY&A. That line uses the bridge at center.
TRAINS: David Lassen
The MTA will study the possibility of passenger service on the freight-only Bay Ridge line, shown in light green on this MTA graphic.
Metropolitan Transportation Authority

NEW YORK — The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has approved a study on the possibility of bringing passenger rail service to Long Island’s Bay Ridge Branch, which has been freight-only since 1924.

The MTA has awarded a $1.3 million contract to engineering firm AECOM, which will work with subcontractor WSP to consider the feasibility of service on the 15-mile branch from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to Astoria, Queens. The line is owned by the Long Island Rail Road and operated by the New York & Atlantic Railway between Bay Ridge and Fresh Pond, with the segment north of Fresh Pond operated by CSX.

The study will evaluate potential for rail operation, which could be subway, commuter rail, light rail, or even bus service, although the line will need to accommodate both passenger and the existing freight operations. A transit operation could provide connections to numerous existing services; it crosses or nears 19 subway lines, as well as Long Island Rail Road passenger routes.

Said MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber. “Putting mass transit on the Bay Ridge Branch could allow the MTA to provide better connections to thousands of people throughout Brooklyn and Queens,” MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber said, “[while] also creating opportunities for increasing environmentally friendly freight rail in years to come.”

Any passenger service could have significant impact on the New York & Atlantic, which has been contract operator of freight service on LIRR routes since 1997.

“New York & Atlantic Railway will cooperate with the study,” NY&A president James Bonner told Trains News Wire, “while continuing to work diligently to ensure that current and future local customers have access to the many benefits of freight rail, including interconnection to the North American freight network.  

“New York City and Long Island freight volumes have tripled over the past 20-plus years and continue to grow, both through our own efforts as well as those of our partners in all levels of government.  While service is expanding, the right-of-way has not grown along with it. There are existing limitations to the future growth of freight rail, and any study must factor in the implications of displacing or even limiting freight operations.”

The Regional Plan Association has advocated passenger service on the route for years, and has its proposal for service, the Triboro, on its website. The MTA’s contract does not address service over the Hell Gate Bridge into the Bronx, which is part of the RPA plan.

7 thoughts on “MTA approves study of passenger service on freight-only Long Island branch NEWSWIRE

  1. This could make very good sense. The existing rail transit network is geared to providing transportation between Manhattan and the outer boroughs, while this proposed service would help accomodate the needs of those who would go from one outer borough to another without going through Manhattan. How many of us would live to actually see anything like this come to fruition?

  2. JOHN – It’s a great idea we won’t live to see. There’s too many megabucks megaprojects ahead of it. Each of which will take billions of dollars.

    Anyone notice on the map that there’ nothing going to LaGuardia Airport?

  3. King Cuomo our almighty governor wants to build another train to the plane, this time at LGA. As with the one to JFK, it would be a 2 seat setup, go way out of the way, and waste piles of money – clearly he’s learned from the Port Authority’s example. Funny thing about the PA’s mess – it was designed to prove to people pushing mass transit that no one would use a train to JFK with their luggage – a claim made about 30 years ago at an infrastructure conference (as I recall it was at Cooper Union and run by Sam Schwartz AKA ) Gridlock Sam by the then PA chairman, best known for being so big he would never fit into a subway seat – it was my understanding that he went everywhere by chauffeur driven limo. The idea was that they’d built it to prove that he was right in saying no one would use it. And consider this – to use the JFK train, you pay a subway or LIRR fare to Jamaica (if you could figure out how to pay the fare, what train, what station), get off if you could with your luggage at Jamaica, figure out how to find the connection to the separate building / station, pay another fare, etc.

    For LGA, the right way to do it is to extend an existing subway line to the airport. Inexpensive single fare. A few properties would need to be acquired. But a lot easier then what Cuomo proposes. And not costing as much, it would mean more money left over for other projects.

  4. This means absolutely NOTHING. Every few years another study comes out and guess what? NOTHING HAPPENS!

  5. RON – I’ve got to say that New York City blew it in the 1950’s and 1960’s. The nation’s capital of mass transit couldn’t build direct transit lines to LGA or Idlewild/JFK. Who to blame? The late Robert Moses for one, the anti-transit king, tsar, emperor, dictator, poobah, mogul, messiah, high priest (or rabbi in his case) and avatar of New York State public works. He didn’t think airline passengers would use transit.

    First off, travelers with luggage DO take transit to airports. Worldwide and even in America.

    Secondly, airports are major employment centers, at every skill level and income level. Not everyone who goes to an airport has luggage.

  6. The comments of the rail freight operator seem overblown regarding capacity constraints. I seem to recall that this is a very broad ROW that was once electrified and two or four tracks wide so there is plenty of space to add transit to the current underutilized one track freight line.

    Traffic today is minuscule compared to when the New Haven used this as their freight line prior to PC years even if it is up somewhat over the last twenty years.

  7. When I was kid I lived in Bay Ridge Bklyn, and my father had a business on 8 th Ave and 64th street I would hear the New Haven E33,s and E44,s humming for blocks coming out of the Bay Ridge yards and run to the overpass on 8th Ave and 61st and watch these freight train heading out to the Hells Gate Bridge , these were big engines I,d compare them to the GG1,s . Anyway the Bay Ridge yard and their was a yard on 1st Ave also was always full with cars coming off the car float operation from New Jersey going to Long Island and Conn. Compared to the 60,s and early 70,s the freight service is a 1/4 of what it use to be, so yea putting together a commuter line is a great move forward , should have been done years ago . If you think about it putting an Amtrack connection to go upstate ,Conn, or Mass maybe in Fresh Ponds or Jamaica and to connect with the Long Island railroad is a good idea. The property is their just have to lay the tracks down and build stations along the way!

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