Western Queens light rail plan gets $500K for engineering study

Glendale tracks web
QNS/Photo by Anthony Giudice

A proposed light rail system for western Queens could be on the fast track to reality.

The city’s new budget for the 2017 fiscal year includes $500,000 earmarked for the city Department of Transportation (DOT) to conduct an engineering study to determine the feasibility of bringing a light rail system from Jamaica to Long Island City along the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Montauk line.

Although the funds have been secured, this process is still in the beginning stages, as the funds won’t be made available until the start of the new fiscal year, which kicks off on July 1.

“I am so pleased that Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito secured funding in this year’s budget to study bringing light rail to Queens — a project that will change public transportation in the borough,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley. “I firmly believe this study will show the clear benefits that a light rail will bring to the local residents and the economy for generations to come. I look forward to working with the DOT every step of the way to expedite this study and move towards smart, reliable public transportation in Queens.”

The Council must now vote to adopt the budget, then Mayor Bill de Blasio must sign it before the funding is final, but Crowley expects the budget to pass.

Crowley has been advocating for a light rail service through Queens since last summer when she announced her vision of making public transportation more accessible to members of the community that live in what are commonly referred to as “transportation deserts.”

Since that time, Crowley has been gaining supporters for her vision.

First, Community Board 5 (CB 5) jumped on board with a 34-6 vote in favor of the plan in December 2015. Then, in February 2016, Borough President Melinda Katz penned a letter to MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast supporting the councilwoman’s idea of a light rail system.

This is not the first bit of good news for Queens transportation advocates this year. In March, Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder was able to secure millions of dollars in this year’s Assembly one-house budget proposal for a feasibility study on reactivating the Rockaway Beach line.