Image courtesy of KPF
It’s interesting how so many eminent domain blog posts from us also happen to include public transportation. This time we found out about Elizabeth Crowley (D-Queens), the former Councilwoman who is pushing for a passenger rail line on the Long Island Railroad’s Lower Montauk branch, which runs 8.5 miles between Long Island City and Jamaica. This new line, if plans come to fruition, could be used to bring new passenger rail service to communities like Maspeth and Glendale. Currently, there are no subway stops. The hope is that this small and rarely used stretch of train tracks in Queens could be helpful in filling transit deserts.
If you seem to recall that there was service to the area way back when, you would be right. Until 1998, the LIRR ran commuter trains along the line, but the MTA closed it when ridership became low. Currently, the tracks service freight trains and are used as an extra storage space for Sunnyside Yard.
Crowley commissioned an independent feasibility study in 2017, which was completed shortly after she left office in early 2018. The proposal is to bring nine stops to the stretch. How much would it cost? An estimated $2.2 billion and would serve about 21,000 weekday riders.
The project would be paid for by selling off MTA air rights and tax schemes like transit-oriented development. Half of the money would go towards upgrading freight operations.
Speaking to a Daily News reporter, Crowley said, “Queens is not getting its fair share of transit and local residents feel beyond frustrated with their daily commutes times,” said Crowley. “Trains would run on existing MTA owned rights of way, the line could be used immediately without eminent domain.”
Did you read our blog post last week about the Second Ave subway line? Note the cost when you re-read it! For this project, since the MTA already owns the tracks, the project would cost $259 million per mile to complete. If you recall, that’s a lot less than the $2.5 billion the agency spent building each mile of the Second Avenue subway. For reference, the Second Avenue subway line has about 69,000 paying riders each weekday when counted in 2017.
Those in opposition to the plan say it’s too much money for too few passengers. Supporters note that the areas it will serve expect to boom in the coming years. They site growth in areas such as Long Island City, Downtown Jamaica, and areas near JFK.
As one advocate put it…“You just can’t get to some places in Queens without going into Manhattan and coming back out again,” said Dorothy Morehead of Queens Community Board 3. “That’s crazy, I think it (the line) would be very good for everybody.”