Agency to consider Rockaway rail revival

Photo by Joe Anuta
By Bianca Fortis

Proponents of reactivating the abandoned Rockaway Beach railway got a boost of support from the transit planners last week.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority released its 20-year capital needs assessment, which says opening up the Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road could be an option to consider.

The rail line has been inactive since 1962.

The report outlines the necessary projects the MTA will have to undertake in order for the transit system to operate safely and reliably from 2015-35.

It mentions the “possible option” of using abandoned rights of way, including the Rockaway Beach branch. It says reactivating the line “could help reduce land acquisition and construction costs and facilitate construction time in densely developed areas.”

Supporters, including state Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) lauded the mention as a step forward for their cause. They believe reactivation could help encourage economic development throughout Queens, among other benefits.

“The MTA has heard our calls for smart investment in existing Right of Ways to improve transit infrastructure, create jobs, while helping each family in Queens and across the city in their daily commutes,” Goldfeder said.

Philip McManus, founder of the Queens Public Transit Committee, said the report provides a “psychological boost” to his side.

“I think it’s great that the MTA is starting to think bigger,” he said. “If this is the greatest city in the world, we need to get our act together.”

Reactivation of the line does face a few roadblocks, however.

In 2001, the MTA released a feasibility study that determined reactivation of the line was impossible due to overwhelming costs, The Wave, a newspaper in the Rockaway Peninsula, reported.

But a request to the MTA for a copy of that study was unsuccessful; a spokesman for the agency said no study was completed.

A more pressing problem for reactivation activists is a proposal to develop part of the rail line into a linear park, the “QueensWay,” akin to Manhattan’s High Line.

A feasibility study for that proposal, funded by a grant from the governor’s office, is under way.

Ssupporters of the park plan believe the conversion would improve the quality of life of the community.

And yet another group, primarily residents of Woodhaven, are opposing both projects out of concerns for safety, privacy and decreasing property values.

Reach reporter Bianca Fortis by email at bfortis@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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