No one remembers the long forgotten proposed tunnel between 69th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and St. George, Staten Island. The concept was to extend subway service from the Brooklyn BMT line to Staten Island. Ground was broken with entrances at both ends in the 1920’s, but the project quickly ran out of money and was abandoned to history. When living on Shore Road in Bay Ridge Brooklyn, friends and I would look to no avail in attempting to find the abandon site filled in decades earlier. At that time, the estimated cost was $60 million. Flash forward 90 years later and it would cost $6 billion today. Another concept was to build a subway tunnel connecting St. George with either the #1 South Ferry or R subway line Whitehall Street subway stations. This second concept which would require an even longer tunnel would cost $10 billion.
Construction of any new freight or public transportation tunnel or bridge project can take decades by the time all feasibility studies, environmental reviews, planning, design, engineering, real estate acquisition, permits, procurements, construction, budgeting, identifying and securing funding is completed. This is before the project reaches beneficial use.
In 1953, the old NYC Board of Transportation passed on control of the municipal subway and bus system, including all its assets to the newly created NYC Transit Authority. That same year, the Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road threatened to terminate all service on Staten Island due to financial losses. NYC agreed to begin providing public subsidy for continued operation of the Tottenville line along with the end of service on the North and South Beach branches.
In 1971, the passenger operations of the former B&O Rail Road Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway Company were sold to NYC for $3.5 million. Later that year, NYC passed on control to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The MTA created a subsidiary, the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority. It is managed by the MTA NYC Transit’s Department of Subways. Since that time, primarily MTA funding was used for capital improvements. In recent times, the MTA initiated using U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration funding for some SIRTOA capital investments including stations upgrades.
There is just a continuing series of feasibility studies sponsored by various governmental agencies and public officials over decades to improve transit connections for Staten Island residents. They generate money for consultants along with free publicity for elected officials who promise a bright future but leave you holding an empty bag. At the end of the day, the long abandoned Brooklyn to Staten Island subway will stay buried.
It will be a miracle to even find $600 million for funding the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit. The same is true for other new Bus Rapid Transit, Light Rail or extending existing SIRTOA service from the South Shore to support any resumption of service in your lifetime on the old North Shore branch which was abandoned in the 1950’s. Ditto for $1.5 billion to pay for West Shore Bus Rapid Transit. The odds of financing and building any subway extension from either Manhattan or Brooklyn to Staten Island are the same as you or I winning a $100 million dollar lotto.
Don’t have any elected officials waste your hard earned tax dollars for another feasibility study to build a direct connection to either Brooklyn or Manhattan. It is a sure bet that it isn’t going to happen for another 90 years.
Larry Penner is a transportation historian,advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.