ALL ON BOARD! Hochul seeks new 14-mile subway line between Bay Ridge and Jackson Heights

Call it the “Bi-boro”.

Governor Hochul rekindled the hearts of transit enthusiasts on Wednesday, revealing in her state-of-the-state speech that she wanted to transform a lightly used rail right-of-way in Brooklyn and Queens into an “Interborough Express” making an arc from Bay De Ridge to Jackson Heights and the intersection of 17 subway lines and Long Island Rail Road.

Calling it a “bold idea,” Hochul said she “ordered the MTA to immediately start an environmental review so that we can move this project forward.”

Details are clear on the How? ‘Or’ What and What and the oh wow it’s expensive of the Interborough, beyond what Hochul shared in his State of the State briefing book. As indicated by the governor, the transit line would use an existing right-of-way that currently only carries a small amount of freight traffic. Hochul said the resulting service could be a bus, heavy train, or light rail, but, according to Hochul figures, the service could attract up to 88,000 passengers per day and two million per year, while still providing a End-to-end service in 40 minutes, with stops at Sunset Park, Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Lots, Brownsville, East New York, Bushwick, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Maspeth and Elmhurst.

But the “Interborough Express” differs in one essential point from the so-called Triboro plan which has been pushed by the Regional Plan Association since its third regional plan surfaced in 1996 – its northern terminus would be Jackson Heights, not Co-op City in the Bronx. But the state is also moving forward with its Penn Access project, which will add four Metro-North stations at Hunts Point, Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-op City.

Yet the RPA celebrated the governor’s approval of an organizational dream that dates back to the last heyday of the New York Knicks.

“We are particularly pleased to see Governor Hochul offer the Interborough Express, which… has long been a priority for RPA,” said Tom Wright, President and CEO of RPA.

The group also tweeted the news using double-light ambulance emojis, the international sign for “It’s a big deal,” though the plan that “goes” is certainly not the Triboro.

Before the Governor pointed out the idea on Wednesday afternoon, versions of the Triboro were occasionally resurrected and released by Christine Quinn, who came up with a bus-based version, and Scott Stringer, who adopted the idea based on the train. in full. The MTA summarily rejected Stringer’s proposal in 2012, citing poor finances (thankfully [checks notes] this is no longer a problem!).

Nonetheless, in 2020, MTA awarded AECOM a $ 1.3 million contract to study the feasibility of using the right-of-way to provide passenger service between Bay Ridge and Astoria. The MTA has been known to reluctantly undertake studies on proposed system expansions and then hugely inflate the cost when it didn’t feel like doing them, but MTA interim CEO Janno Lieber previously said the project of “extremely exciting” back when he was just the director of development of MTA. Lieber also praised Hochul’s somewhat smaller proposal for Interborough on Wednesday.

“This project would smartly reallocate existing infrastructure to add transit and create access to jobs, education and opportunity for so many residents of Queens and Brooklyn,” he said. “I applaud Governor Hochul’s leadership and we look forward to working with her, as well as federal and state partners to advance the concept of Interborough.

The MTA also tweeted an image showing the route of the proposed bus or train project.

Cavalier defenders were also elated, given what a 14-mile arch would mean for hundreds of thousands of the city’s residents.

“Increasing connectivity between the outer boroughs is a vital step in creating the 21st century transit system that our region and our riders deserve,” said Lisa Daglian, Executive Director of the Standing Citizen’s Advisory Committee to the MTA. “Asking the MTA to begin an environmental review and consider the best transit option for the corridor is an important next step in the process that could benefit hundreds of thousands – if not millions – of New Yorkers.”

Daglian raised some initial questions, particularly if Interborough would play well with the others.

“There’s a lot to consider during the next steps in the process, including: Can the proposed Interborough Express line connect to LaGuardia Airport? How will the line interact with the Penn Access Project, as well as the Hell Gate Bridge and Amtrak schedules? Throughout this process, users deserve transparency to ensure that the MTA is held accountable and can deliver this transformative rail infrastructure to outer boroughs as quickly as possible, ”she said.

It remains to be seen whether the cost or the conflict with freight rail service could negate the proposed transit proposal.

When the MTA awarded a feasibility study on the Astoria connection to Bay Ridge, former federal transit planner Larry Penner and RPA Senior Vice President Kate Slevin wrote dueling opinion pieces for Streetsblog. Penner predicted that work to prepare the right-of-way for passenger service – and then purchase equipment for it – could run into the billions of single-digit dollars, while Slevin suggested that since the right-of-way and the Ways already exist, the project could avoid being shattered by New York’s periodically high construction costs.

If the proposed transit service turns from the page to the real thing, it may be interfering with New York City’s stated goal of moving more goods through the city by train. In its final days, the Blasio administration released a report on sustainable transport practices that mentioned the use of the existing right-of-way for more freight transport, specifically asking the Town’s Economic Development Corporation to “Work with local partners to determine the feasibility of making greater use of Bay Ridge Cut and other rail lines for additional cargo handling.” Macher regional Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-Manhattan) has also long dreamed of creating a trans-Hudson freight tunnel that would connect New York and New Jersey through Bay Ridge and suggested the project is a prerequisite for the city’s pursuit of New York existence.

MTA and Governor Hochul have said the Interborough Express could coexist with increased freight service, with the governor and transport agency writing: could be a game-changer for the region.

An MTA source said the AECOM 2020 Bay Ridge to Astoria connection study “laid the groundwork” for Hochul’s announcement today, and the study specifically looked at how to balance freight service. with passenger service. The source also said the MTA is now meeting with “key entities” and “stakeholders” to discuss the project and obtain federal advice on what an environmental review will look like. Once the review is underway, the federal environmental review process is expected to take less than two years, according to the source.

The Interborough is one of the few high-priced mass transit items Hochul mentioned in his speech, all of which will be familiar to anyone who’s pulled their hair out watching various transport promises made and unmade at the over the past decade. In addition to the Interborough Express, Hochul has pledged to support:

Advocates also reminded Hochul that it will also need to avoid rate hikes and service cuts for existing MTA service, which is currently threatened by the agency’s shaky finances and future billion dollar deficits. .

“Last year, New York riders won tens of billions of dollars in unprecedented federal aid and infrastructure funds to save and improve public transit,” said Danny Pearlstein, director of public transportation. Riders Alliance policies and communications. “Gov. Hochul joined Senator Schumer last fall in postponing rate hikes and service cuts. In this year’s state budget, the governor and legislature are to withdraw rate increases for at least five years and move towards increased rather than reduced service to meet new and growing user needs.

Of course, some people quickly decided to take the Governor’s transit gift in their mouths:

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