Delay in Rockaway Beach rail line study may be good sign for south Queens commuters, lawmaker says

The abandoned Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road, which hasn't seen train service since 1962.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons

For once, an MTA delay may mean good news for Queens commuters, according to Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato.

The Rockaway Beach-based lawmaker announced on Tuesday that the MTA has delayed releasing the results of its Rockaway Beach Rail Line reactivation study. The examination focuses on the abandoned, 3.2-mile Rockaway Beach branch of the Long Island Rail Road — which hasn’t been active in more than 50 years — between Rego Park and Ozone Park.

Amato, however, viewed the delay as a positive development. She explained that the MTA informed her it needed extra time “to allow a full and thorough examination” of the potential for reactivating the line for passenger rail service.

Commuters in southern Queens have long viewed the dormant line as an opportunity to expand either the LIRR or subway system — and reduce commute times to and from Manhattan by at least a half-hour. Others, however, have viewed the line — reforested naturally during its half-century of dormancy — as the opportunity to build a new public park similar to The High Line in Manhattan.

Amato’s predecessor in the Assembly seat she now occupies, former Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, secured funding to launch the Rockaway Beach reactivation study prior to his departure. Since taking office, she has continued to push the MTA to move the study along and expand its scope.

Last year, according to the assemblywoman, the MTA informed her that the study results wouldn’t be released until the first quarter of 2018. Moreover, the study would also include specific criteria related to the feasibility of the proposal and the addition of an outside contractor to help complete the evaluation — two items which Amato had urged the MTA to secure.

In response to a letter she recently sent to MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, Amato said, MTA representatives informed her that the findings of the reactivation study wouldn’t be ready until this summer.

“Am I surprised that the MTA has yet to release the results of the evaluation? No. Am I disappointed? We all are,” she said in an April 11 statement. “However, I think that a delayed study could mean good news. The MTA, the LIRR and NYCT (New York City Transit) are getting the message from our continued advocacy and outpouring of demand from the community — and, at long last, they’re giving the RBRL a serious look, even if it’s taking a year longer than originally expected.”

QNS reached out to the MTA, which declined to comment at this time.

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