Following up on one lawmaker’s recommendation at its most recent meeting, the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association formally asked the city Department of Transportation (DOT) to consider turning the defunct Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) into a bus-only roadway.
The WRBA made the recommendation in a 12-page letter to DOT Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia in which the group outlined possible benefits of a “busway” running along the abandoned railroad line a few blocks east of Woodhaven Boulevard. The concept was billed as an alternative to the DOT’s planned implementation of a Select Bus Service system along Woodhaven and Cross Bay boulevards, which would include dedicating an entire lane of traffic in either direction for buses.
“The process that DOT used to come up with its SBS design concept was severely flawed, and if it were implemented, it would be extremely detrimental to our community,” WRBA President Martin Colberg said in a statement. “We believe the busway would likely be much better for our community, and we hope that other neighborhoods join us in urging DOT to consider it.”
Assemblyman Mike Miller pitched the busway idea to WRBA members at its Nov. 21 meeting, and attendees expressed support for it. The busway would run on the elevated LIRR tracks of the former Rockaway Beach branch, which was taken out of service more than 50 years ago. Advocates are currently seeking to transform the 3.2-mile stretch of the former rail line between Rego Park and Ozone Park — much of which became naturally reforested over the years — into a linear park comparable to Manhattan’s High Line Park, known as The QueensWay.
In its letter to Garcia, the WRBA indicated the busway would prove more beneficial for the community than a new park by directing buses away from Woodhaven Boulevard, thus easing congestion. The buses would be able to operate more quickly on the busway, the group added, thereby reducing commute times for those who rely on public transportation to travel through the area.
The WRBA urged Garcia and the DOT to “turn a new leaf” by seriously considering the busway plan, which — according to the civic group — has the support of Miller, state Senator Joseph Addabbo, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation and the Woodhaven Business Improvement District.