Borough president pens letter to MTA in support of western Queens light rail plan

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

The plan to bring commuter rail back to the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Lower Montauk line between Jamaica and Long Island City gained another major supporter in Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

On Feb. 23, Katz wrote a letter to MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast highlighting her support for the plan originally presented last year by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley to bring more transportation options to residents across western Queens.

Katz noted that this rail line should be considered as part of a “Master Plan” for a regional rail system that would connect the Jamaica LIRR station to the Hunters Point Terminal in Long Island City.

“The communities are in need of better east-west transportation options to serve our residential and business communities,” Katz wrote. “This concept should include passenger stations at appropriately determined facilities such as the Jamaica LIRR Station, Atlas Park Mall, the M train Metropolitan Avenue/Fresh Pond Road Bridge, Flushing Avenue, where a future connection could be made to the Bushwick branch of the LIRR, and Hunters Point Terminal in Long Island City.”

Katz further requested that the MTA conduct a travel demand study “to determine the potential current and future ridership levels” along the line.

“In determining the demand for service along this route, I ask that you utilize the Regional Transit Forecast Model and also analyze what, if any, effect returning service to the LIRR Lower Montauk branch would have on the overcrowding of the existing subway lines servicing Jamaica and LIC,” she added.

In December 2015, Crowley pitched her idea to Community Board 5 (CB 5), which ultimately supported her proposal by a 34-6 vote. The community board’s support aided Katz’s decision to get behind the proposal.

“The population in Queens is exploding, and it’s critical we take measures to get more cars off the street, ease the burden of commuting and provide the opportunity for greater economic growth,” Crowley said. “I thank the borough president for recognizing this, and am grateful for her support of my light rail proposal.”

The Lower Montauk line is currently used exclusively by New York and Atlantic Railway for freight rail operations. The LIRR provided passenger rail service along the branch from Hunterspoint Avenue in Long Island City to Jamaica as recently as March 1997, when it was discontinued due to lack of use.