An engineering firm launched a study this week, on behalf of the MTA, exploring the possibility of adding passenger transit service along what’s currently a freight-only rail line that runs between Brooklyn and Queens, transit officials announced Wednesday.
The study, conducted by AECOM under a $1.3 million MTA contract, would look at the potential of adding “subway, commuter rail, light rail or bus service” along the Bay Ridge Branch, a 16-mile existing freight rail line that runs from Astoria to Bay Bridge, passing through the neighborhoods of Midwood, East New York, Brownsville, Bushwick, Glendale, Middle Village and Elmhurst.
Any passenger service added on the route would run alongside existing freight service along the line, sections of which are owned by the MTA, New York & Atlantic Railway and the freight company CSX. The line could potentially connect passengers to other transit system options, including the LIRR and 19 subway lines, officials said.
“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,” MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber said in a statement.
The proposal is one of several ideas floated in recent years to increase public transit options connecting the outer boroughs, such as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s controversial BQX Streetcar plan.
The Regional Plan Association, a research advocacy group, has for decades been pushing for a similar project called The Triboro, though their proposal would extend even further, running 24-miles total and terminating in The Bronx’s Co-Op City.
Regional Plan Association’s President President Tom Wright said the MTA’s study is a “crucial first step” to realizing the group’s vision, and for creating better commutes outside Manhattan.
“Transit service on the Bay Ridge Line would not only provide better transit service between the outer boroughs but also cut construction and acquisition costs since the rail tracks are already there,” Wright said in a statement. “This study will build on our initial concept, and evaluate cost, feasibility, among other issues, to help push the project forward.”
The MTA did not yet have a timeline for when the study will be completed.