By Larry Penner
Whatever happened to the promised MTA feasibility study for restoration of LIRR service on the old Rockaway Beach line?
The original completion date was June 2017. It was subsequently delayed until December 2017 and again to June 2018.
Another four months has come and gone with no draft and final reports yet to have been made public. The MTA will not even commit to a new schedule and date for release of the study.
The continued delay in the release of the study could imply that both feasibility and costs have been found to be prohibitive. The estimated costs have already grown from $600 million to $1 billion over recent years.
Remember the old proposed LIRR Lower Montauk branch Light Rail Project championed by former City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley? The release of the $500,000 feasibility study for introduction of light rail on that corridor last December may have been the final stop for this project.
According to this report, the anticipated cost grew by 2100 percent from $100 million to $2.2 billion. Support from public officials, transit agencies, transit advocates, commuters and taxpayers subsequently disappeared.
Don’t be surprised if results from the MTA Rockaway Beach LIRR restoration study reveals a cost in the billions and timetable for completion over ten years. This may be the last breath for any hope of MTA Rockaway Beach Branch LIRR restoration.
If the study results were favorable, there would have already been a joint press conference with the MTA, LIRR and local supporters such as state Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato along with project transit advocates to share the good news.
This announcement would include promises to add additional funding which would be amended into the existing $32 billion MTA 2015-2019 Five Year Capital program. Millions would be needed to begin the environmental review along with preliminary design and engineering.
More funding for final design and engineering, along with construction, would be added to the MTA’s soon-to-be proposed 2020-2024 Five Year Capital Plan. Planning work on this upcoming document, which would be released in 2019, is already under way behind the scenes at both MTA Headquarters and Long Island Rail Road.
The longer the MTA sits on the study, the greater the odds some consultants along with MTA staff are staying up late trying to wordsmith the report so as to down play the bad news.
The only winners from this study will be the well-paid consultants. They will move on to the next transit planners’ dream.