A more than 20-year-old proposal to construct an above-ground rail line connecting Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx is getting renewed attention in Albany, as one lawmaker looks to boost transit options for the city’s outer borough residents.
Assembly Member Latrice Walker introduced a bill last week that would require the MTA to conduct a feasibility study on The Triboro— a proposal from the Regional Plan Association (RPA), first introduced in 1996, to build a 24-mile train route along an existing rail right-of-way stretching from Co-op City to Bay Ridge.
Walker, who represents Brownsville, says the time is right to revisit the idea, as the city and state continue to debate ways to improve to region’s transit network, and as the future implementation of congestion pricing is expected to garner new revenue for the cash-strapped MTA.
“Residents in communities such as Brownsville or Co-op city have been plagued by two-fare zones and inaccessibility, however, when we have conversations regarding updating infrastructure and service lines, it always seems as if we are an after-thought,” Walker told City Limits in a statement. “As our great state is about to receive an influx of transportation dollars from policy initiatives like congestion pricing, this study may prove to be a worthwhile plan to give hardworking families in outer boroughs the ability for their dollars to work for them.”
The RPA proposed The Triboro to create a north-south connection for commuters in the outer boroughs, where nearly half of the city’s job growth has occurred over the last decade but where many neighborhoods remain underserved by the MTA’s Manhattan-centric subway network.
Under the RPA’s plan, the Triboro would be built along existing rail lines, with 22 stations running from Co-op City into the South Bronx, connecting to Queens neighborhoods like Astoria and Jackson Heights before heading into Brooklyn, where it would run through East New York, Flatbush and Bensonhurst, terminating in Bay Ridge. The route would connect to 17 subway lines and four commuter rail lines, according to the RPA’s plans.
City planners have long sought ways to improve public transit connections between the outer boroughs, including Mayor de Blasio’s proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector streetcar, which would run along the waterfront. Currently, riders traveling between The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn via the subway often have to pass through Manhattan, or can opt to take often slow-moving MTA buses. The Triboro could shorten commutes for some riders by more than 30 minutes, according to the RPA.
The route would also make use of existing rail infrastructure, making it less expensive to build out, according to the organization, which estimates The Triboro would cost $1 billion to $2 billion to construct (by comparison, the MTA’s East Side Access project to extend the LIRR to Grand Central Terminal surpassed the $11 billion price mark last year, according to reports).
“There’s not as much infrastructure that would need to be built to make it a feasible line,” says Maulin Mehta, a senior associate of state programs and advocacy for the RPA. ” With the transit crisis…there’s been a shift in wanting to do transit projects that give people a little more bang for their buck.”
The route proposed for The Triboro is along a rail right-of-way owned by three different entities: Amtrak, LIRR and freight operator CSX. Walker’s bill would require the MTA to study the feasibility of the project from a number of perspectives, including “the feasibility of co-mingling public transit and freight” and whether such a line could be integrated with the area’s existing transit and fare systems.
“The main point behind getting this feasibility study done is to ensure what we think is doable is something that the MTA can accomplish,” Mehta says.
The MTA declined to comment on the legislation.