Western Queens light rail plan gets community leaders’ support after tour of rail line

Photos courtesy of Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley's office

They’re not taking western Queens’ public transportation needs lightly.

As Queens neighborhoods become more and more crowded, one local lawmaker took city officials and community leaders on a tour of the Long Island Rail Road’s (LIRR) Lower Montauk line to tout light rail commuter service as a way to better move the growing number of people across western Queens.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley led Monday’s tour of the rail line and the Fresh Pond Railyard in Glendale, and was joined by Nicole Garcia, Department of Transportation (DOT) Queens Borough Commissioner; Jason Banrey, DOT Deputy Borough Commissioner; Walter Sanchez, Community Board 5 (CB 5) vice chair and Land Use Committee chair; John Maier, CB 5 Transportation Committee co-chair; Ted Renz, Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District (BID) executive director; and engineer Hendra Soetjahja.

“I continue to believe that a light rail on the Lower Montauk branch is the best, most efficient and practical solution for Queens’ overburdened streets and public transportation lines,” Crowley said. “This tour reaffirmed the fact that this rail line must be preserved for the greatest benefit of the local community. Queens is New York City’s fastest growing borough, and we must invest in infrastructure that supports that growth.”

The tour went as far west as 11th Street in Long Island City, traveling through the growing neighborhoods of western Queens and highlighting the need for a rail system, before finishing back at the Fresh Pond Yard.

“The line passes neighborhoods which are just beginning to burst at the seams, and a light rail line would get ahead of that development,” Sanchez said. “But even more important is that Glendale is quite challenged when it comes to public transportation. A five-mile trip on a light rail line from Long Island City to Glendale would cut commute time down significantly for Glendale residents.”

The Lower Montauk line is currently used exclusively for New York & Atlantic’s freight operations, which run for only a few hours overnight. Crowley believes that both passenger and freight operations can coexist on this line by setting separate schedules for the two.

A light rail passenger service could potentially bring an economic boom to the communities it serves.

“Choosing light rail is an efficient, accessible and comfortable way to accommodate the need for more transit options. The addition to providing transportation it is also a catalyst for economic development,” Renz said.

Earlier this year, the DOT received $500,000 in the city’s 2017 budget for an engineering study to see if a light rail commuter system would be feasible on the Lower Montauk line.

“We look forward to sharing the results of our feasibility study for commuter rail, and continuing the conversation with Queens residents about ways to improve access to transit across the borough,” Garcia said.

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