MTA awards $1.3M to study turning Bay Ridge-to-Astoria freight rail into a passenger line

FreightTrain glendale
QNS/File photo

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced Thursday that it has awarded a $1.3 million contract to an engineering firm that will study the feasibility of creating a passenger rail from a freight-only line that runs from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to Astoria. 

“This project is hugely exciting – partly because it is based on the concept of squeezing more out of our already existing infrastructure so we don’t always have to build new subway lines from scratch,” said MTA Chief Development Officer Janno Lieber.

The 16-mile line runs from southeast from Astoria through Glendale, Middle Village and Elmhurst in Queens. It either crosses or borders on 19 subway lines and two lines of the Long Island Rail Road. In Brooklyn, it travels through Midwood, East New York, Brownsville, Bushwick. 

Images courtesy of the MTA

The southern part of the line is owned by MTA Long Island Rail Road, which uses the line exclusively for freight trains operated by the New York and Atlantic Railway. CSX Transportation, a freight railroad, owns the northern part.

The study will look into the possibility for subway, commuter rail, light rail or bus service that would run in tandem with existing freight rail service to help residents travel within Brooklyn and Queens. 

The study comes at a time when residents in the Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale areas have been pointing out the lack of subways in that southwestern area of Queens as a part of the redesign of the borough’s bus network. 

It also comes shortly after Mayor de Blasio began a renewed effort to advance the BQX, another Brooklyn-to-Queens transit alternative that would travel from Red Hook to Astoria along the East River.

The MTA’s press release emphasized the possibilities for connections or transfers to intersecting subway lines and the LIRR.

“Putting mass transit on the Bay Ridge Branch could allow the MTA to serve more neighborhoods and provide better connections to thousands of people throughout Brooklyn and Queens – all while also creating opportunities for increasing environmentally-friendly freight rail in years to come,” said Lieber.

Engineering firm AECOM will work on the study with subcontractor WSP.