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Virtual town hall on MTA light rail proposal for Brooklyn, Queens

A proposed light rail project through Brooklyn and Queens with connections to an East New York LIRR stop and 17 subway stations is the subject of a MTA virtual town hall set for Wednesday evening.

The project, known as the Interborough Express and announced last year by Gov. Kathy Hochul, would operate on the railroad’s Bay Ridge Branch, which stopped running passenger service in the 1920s and is now used for freight transport. It would include connections to subway stops along a 14-mile corridor including Bay Ridge, Borough Park, Brownsville, Bushwick, East New York, Elmhurst, Flatbush, Flatlands, Jackson Heights, Kensington, Maspeth, Middle Village, Midwood, New Lots and Sunset Park.

The Long Island Rail Road’s East New York station would also connect to the light rail.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority estimates that the completed project would serve up to 115,000 daily riders and about 4 million annually. Transportation experts have estimated the project could cost up to $2 billion

The virtual town hall, on Zoom, is scheduled to run from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and will provide updates on the proposal and discussion of the environmental review process.

The proposed route through Brooklyn and Queens of the Interborough Express light rail system.
Credit: MTA

Earlier this month, Hochul announced that a consultant from WSP USA Inc., a Manhattan-based engineering firm, would conduct the environmental review, which she described in a statement as a “major milestone in this monumental project — bringing us that much closer to connecting communities in Brooklyn and Queens while improving their quality of life,”

By using existing rail track, Hochul said, “the Interborough Express will shave time off commutes and make it easier to connect to subway lines across the route.”

An MTA study found that the Interborough Express would connect up to 7 out of 10 riders from communities of color. The agency also estimated that about half of riders it would serve don’t own a vehicle, and about one-third come from households living at or below 150% of the federal poverty line.

Some rider advocacy groups said the new line could reduce commute times in Brooklyn and Queens by 30 minutes.

The project would allow commuters to avoid unnecessary trips to Manhattan and could help cut dependency on automobiles, which will reduce pollution, said Lisa Daglian, executive director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA.

“This is a project that is a long time in the making and it will be an important additional north-south connector in an area where we don’t really have any options,” Daglian said. “The Interborough Express will provide a direct access without having to go into Manhattan for people in Queens and Brooklyn that just want to travel within those boroughs. It will save time and offer connectivity to subways, bus lines and the LIRR and different avenues of travel at a time we really need it.”


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