QueensRail Line Feasibility Study Delayed
In 2012, after Governor Cuomo’s announcement of the construction of a new convention center at the Aquaduct racetrack, former Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder (D- Ozone Park) remarked, “The commute for people here [Southern Queens] is only going to go from bad to worse. You can’t talk about a convention center without talking about transportation.” While the proposal for the convention center was soon after abandoned, Goldfeder’s comment is proving to be prophetic regarding the current state of public transportation in Southern Queens and New York City. Dubbed the “summer of hell” by Governor Cuomo, public transportation in the city has been nothing short of a nightmare resulting of multiple service suspensions, train derailments, and delays. For residents in Southern Queens, who already have limited reliable access to public transportation, the MTA’s dismal performance only serves to support their insistence on improved transportation options. One of these options is the Queensrail Line project.
The QueensRail Line project seeks to reactivate the long-abandoned Rockaway Beach LIRR Line that ran between Rego Park and Rockaway Park, connecting mainland Queens with the Rockaway Peninsula. Proposals to reactivate the line have been discussed on and off since the line’s closure in 1960, however it’s recently gained serious traction. Last year, the QueensRail Line project won a huge victory when the MTA announced that a feasibility study would be conducted on whether the old LIRR line could be reactivated and absorbed by the MTA. The results of the study were supposed to be shared in June 2017, but the MTA chose to the scope of the study and include perspectives from the Long Island Rail Road and an outside contractor. The MTA plans to finish the updated study in this winter.
Queens Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato is a strong proponent of the plan. In regards to a recent exchange with the MTA, the Pheffer Amato said, “This is a huge deal. Reactivating the RBRL [Rockaway Beach Rail Line] may be the best and most permanent fix for our transit issues. We had a 40-minute commute for eighty years, from 1880 to 1960. But it was lengthened to an hour twenty minutes, and now we’re effectively cut off from large parts of the city. So fixing that is priority number one.”
Proponents of the QueensRail Line cite the potential economic boosts and reduced commuting time as the largest benefits of the reactivation. According to a 2014 student-led Queens College Urban Studies Department study, the reactivation could generate 500,000 subways trips per day, which could provide large new customer bases for Queens-based businesses. Some residents and lawmakers in Rego Park and Forest Hills oppose the QueensRail line because of its potential negative impacts to homeowners. The mainland Queens constituents who live near the retired line fear the increased noise and disruption near their homes, as well as decreasing property values. Other opponents support the Queensway project, which proposes to build a park, like Manhattan’s High Line Park, along the 3.5 mile stretch between Rego Park and Ozone Park. Until the results of the feasibility study are released this winter, Queens residents will be left waiting to ponder the future of their transit. We anticipate most of the waiting will happen on the A-Train platform.