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Photo Courtesy of Brooklyn Queens Connector
The Queens Public Transit Committee feels the Brooklyn Queens Connector may cause problems for other modes of transportation.

Rail could be the wave of the future throughout west Queens.

With Mayor Bill de Blasio releasing last week a $2.5 billion plan to bring commuters the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX), an above-ground streetcar line along the East River waterfront, one local politician is hoping her plan for a commuter rail will be put on the fast track.

Since last summer, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley has advocated for introducing light rail along the Long Island Rail Road’s Montauk branch between Glendale and Long Island City. The line, now primarily used for freight, last saw commuter train service in 1997.

“I think [the mayor’s plan is] innovative and interesting and expensive,” Crowley said. “I don’t look at the plan in a negative way, I look at it as an opportunity to talk about my plan. I’ve been in touch with DOT about my plan and I know they’ve pushed it into a more of the jurisdiction of the MTA. If the mayor’s plan comes to fruition, it could benefit my plan. Any type of improved transportation would be beneficial for people.”

The BQX’s approximately 16-mile route would run between Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Astoria, Queens, with more stops in Ravenswood; Long Island City; Greenpoint; Williamsburg; the Navy Yard; Vinegar Hill; DUMBO; Downtown Brooklyn; Brooklyn Heights; Cobble Hill; Red Hook; Gowanus; and Sunset Park.

Crowley’s plan calls for a potential starting point at The Shops at Atlas Park in Glendale, with stops heading west, terminating at the Hunters Point Avenue LIRR stop in Long Island City. This would provide a direct connection to the BQX.

“It would make sense to link up in Hunters Point in LIC,” Crowley said. “I believe my plan could be done sooner, and be more cost effective. When you already have the right of way and the tracks, it makes it easier and cheaper to do, all you would need is the equipment.”

One potential roadblock for Crowley’s commuter rail plan is that the LIRR currently leases the Montauk line tracks west of Jamaica to New York and Atlantic Railway exclusively for its freight rail operations. Trying to operate both commuter rail and freight simultaneously could be problematic.

However, the lawmaker pointed out that other cities are able to have freight and commuter rail coexist.

“It’s already happening in other cities, it’s a fact,” Crowley said. “The FRA (Federal Railroad Administration) has given New Jersey the ability to operate both. We have to look at what is happening there.”

With both plans still in the early stages, it seems the debate over rail service in west Queens is only beginning.

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