By Rebecca Henely
If you build it, will they come? That is the question Long Island Rail Road President Helena Williams is asking.
In response to two Queens legislators’ campaign to reopen the Elmhurst train station that closed in 1985, Williams said it is economically feasible, but the LIRR needs to do a study to see if residents would be willing to pay the more expensive fares for a train while there are subway lines and buses in the area.
“Would it attract the ridership?” Williams asked at a news conference last Thursday with U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights). “Would they be there?”
Williams visited the intersection of Whitney and Cornish avenues, which was once the site of the train station along the Port Washington line. At the conference, which ended with a walking tour of the station, Crowley pointed out that the overpass for the train still contains the buttresses where the station once sat.
He said if the station, which closed in 1985 due to a decline in ridership, were to be reopened, it would provide a faster, more comfortable ride into Manhattan.
“Elmhurst deserves this railroad station,” Dromm said.
The station would provide a stop between the Woodside and Mets-Willets Point stations.
Williams said reopening the station would cost at least $20 million, and that number could be bumped up to $30 million if the station became handicapped-accessible.
Nevertheless, she said that after looking at its 2010-14 capital program, the agency found it was feasible, especially in light of track extensions near Great Neck and Port Washington that would allow for additional trains.
Williams said LIRR is in the drafting stages of its study, which will look at travel patterns in the area and what services residents are using.
“I think that there is viability and that is what we need to test,” Williams said.
She said the cost for a Manhattan-bound ticket for the Elmhurst station would be $7.25 at peak times, $5 at off-peak and $3.50 for disabled and senior riders.
A presentation put out by the LIRR said Elmhurst’s population grew by more than 45 percent from 1980-2010. It said possible destinations for train riders could be the Queens Center Mall, which is about 10 blocks away from the station, and Elmhurst Hospital Center, which is two blocks away.
Crowley characterized the LIRR’s study as a good thing but not a “slam dunk” in getting an alternate route for Elmhurst riders.
“The city of New York must become a more livable place,” he said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.