For folks living in some of New York City's biggest subway deserts, there may be some help on the horizon.
OK, it may be far off on the horizon, but still — there's hope!
The MTA announced earlier this week that they have begun looking into the prospects of adding a passenger rail line that would connect Brooklyn's Bay Ridge to Astoria, Queens — making the oftentimes arduous journey between the two outer boroughs slightly less of a headache.
The project will look to see if freight-only rail lines that already exist and are currently being used could be switched over for commuters as well.
The southern part of the line is owned by MTA's Long Island Rail Road, the agency said, and is used for freight trains by the New York & Atlantic Railway. The northern portion of the tracks are owned by CSX transportation, a freight service.
Engineering firm AECOM was awarded the $1.3 million contract to being studying the process and feasibility of such an undertaking. The study will evaluate the potential for subway, commuter rail, light rail, or bus service for residents of Brooklyn and Queens without doing away with the freight service, the MTA said in the announcement.
The new transit could offer connections or transfers to exiting subway lines and the LIRR, and give another transit option for residents living in Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Midwood, East New York, Brownsville, Bushwick, Middle Village, Elmhurst and into Astoria.
“This project is hugely exciting – partly because it is based on the concept of squeezing more out of our already existing infrastructure so we don’t always have to build new subway lines from scratch,” said MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber. “Putting mass transit on the Bay Ridge Branch could allow the MTA to serve more neighborhoods and provide better connections to thousands of people throughout Brooklyn and Queens – all while also creating opportunities for increasing environmentally-friendly freight rail in years to come.”
Plans also show potential for expansion onto Randall's Island (either above or below ground) and into the Bronx — perhaps someday giving commuters the ability to go from the far reaches of Eastchester or Pelham Bay all the way to Bay Ridge on a continuous subway ride and without ever going into Manhattan.
There is no timetable for when the study would begin, or when any work could potentially begin or finish. But given that no new subway tunnels or new lines would have to be built, there's a chance that (if approved) the project would not be as long term as some of the MTA's other subway line projects over the years, such as the notorious Second Avenue line that lasted decades.