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MTA improvement plan may benefit restoration of Rockaway Beach Rail Line

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South Queens has one of the longest commute times to Midtown Manhattan out of any area in the five boroughs. But changes may soon be made as part of a new study released by the Metropolitan Transit Authority that could undermine a proposal to turn an unused Queens rail line into a park.

In the study, the MTA Transportation Reinvention Commission proposes to “aggressively expand the capacity of the existing [MTA] system.”

The newly released MTA study was welcome news to Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, who has been advocating for improvements to the already existing infrastructure where the Rockaway Beach Rail Line once was.

“Support for reactivation of the rail line continues to grow and this new report drafted by leading transit experts is a huge step in the right direction,” said Goldfeder. “The Commission recognizes that reactivating unused rights-of-way such as the Rockaway Beach Rail Line is the best and most cost-effective way to improve access to transit for hundreds of thousands of Queens families.”

The report finds that the economic success of New York is dependent on a world class transportation system and that the MTA must continue to make improvements to it if it wants to keep this economic growth.

“New York will never have a world-class transit system unless the MTA reinvents itself and the public invests in it. A robust transportation network is essential to the region, but its past achievements do not make future success inevitable,” said Ray LaHood, co-chair of the Transportation Reinvention Commission and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation. “Our work shows that the MTA can meet the array of challenges it faces, but doing so will require careful stewardship, creative thinking and heightened investment to ensure it can continue to be the engine that drives New York.”

The MTA study comes as a group has been advocating for a project called QueensWay, inspired by Manhattan’s High Line, which would convert the long-dormant rail line into a public park stretching across a wide swath of Queens.

The report released seven key strategies for improving transportation throughout the city. It states that the MTA must make investments designed to serve existing and emerging population and employment centers that are not well served by the existing system while also “pursuing new flexible service alternatives and operating modes.”

This expansion is already taking place in south Queens with plans being discussed for Select Bus Service on Woodhaven Boulevard.

The reactivation of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line could result in 500,000 daily trips and would cost the MTA around $700 million, according to a recent Queens College study.
Goldfeder believes this is a significant step forward in his fight to bring rail service along the line back to south Queens.

“I’m pleased that the Commission recognizes what our communities have known for a long time — that using this right-of-way is our best option for cutting commute times, growing our small businesses, and building a stronger, more resilient transit network,” concluded Goldfeder.

“Residents overwhelmingly support the reactivation of the rail line and I will continue to work with the MTA and my colleagues to make that dream a reality.”

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