To The Editor:
The “MTA’s Rockaway Rail Study delayed” (Jon Cronin, June 23) for $1 million to look at the long-abandoned Rockaway Beach Long Island Rail Road line will still be short $999 or more, depending on the recommendations and results for fully funding restoration of service. The MTA previously promised elected officials that it would finish this study and issue a final report by June 2017.
Can rookie state Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato count on MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, Sens. Schumer and Gillibrand, Congressman Meeks, LIRR President Nowakowski, Gov. Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio to find both $231 million for the Woodhaven Blvd. Select Bus Service and $1 billion for this project?
Will this project be included within the next MTA 2020-2024 five-year or 2014-2034 20-year capital needs assessment? Is the project included in the New York Metropolitan Transportation Council (NYMTC) five-year short-range and 20-year long-range plan for capital transportation projects? The cost was estimated to be only $200 million and grew to $600 million last year before reaching $1 billion today. The MTA has to come up with $5 to $700 million.
Don’t make plans to wait for a train to arrive at any new station along the old Rockaway Beach LIRR branch any time soon. History has shown that construction of any major new transportation system expansion project has taken decades to complete. Between the time for all the feasibility studies, environmental reviews, planning, identifying and securing funding, budgeting, design, engineering, real estate acquisition, permits, procurements, construction, acquisition of rolling stock and opening-day service, it can take more than a generation.
Virtually all of these issues would also apply to reopening the old LIRR Rockaway Beach branch line. And don’t forget the logistical and operational issues of running any LIRR service parallel to the existing subway line to the Rockaways. Construction through the Jamaica Bay wetlands will also provide challenges.
LIRR service to the Rockaways would—at a minimum—be considered Zone 3 just like other Queens neighborhoods. Current fares for Zone 3 riders are $218 for a monthly or $69.75 for a weekly pass. How much will these fares be years later when passenger revenue service is finally introduced?
Any additional new LIRR service to Penn Station, which would include restoration of the old Rockaway Beach branch, has other issues with which to contend. There is little room to run additional trains into or out of Penn Station during either a.m. or p.m. rush hours.
Larry Penner is a transportation historian and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.