Expanding Rail Float Operations: A Step in the Right Direction

April 12, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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By Dennis Holt

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

BROOKLYN — The applause and cheers last week regarding potential improvements in cross-harbor freight shipping to Brooklyn were not as forceful and robust as when the Giants won the Super Bowl, but they will do.

News for those who live, work and play in Brooklyn and beyond

There hasn’t been much news lately about ongoing attempts to boost Brooklyn’s chances of getting a first-class container port in Sunset Park. Nevertheless, the potential for such a facility actually being built will improve if the grant request made by New York elected officials is approved as expected.

The only news recently about Brooklyn’s small Red Hook container port is that it is now being operated by a beer company, which may sound silly but makes sense because large amounts of imported beer are brought in by ship.

Last week’s news is that money is being sought from the feds to improve and expand the cross-harbor freight rail car barge operations by getting three new low-emission locomotives and a new barge that would double freight capacity. The program would also renovate the rail facility at 50th Street in Sunset Park and the 65th Street rail yards in Bay Ridge.

The whole issue is the result of neglect and bad decisions over the decades that have made it impossible to efficiently handle large rail shipments east of the Hudson. As a result, the whole metropolitan area is clogged by large trucks, and no adequate container ports exist east of the Hudson.

In the 1920s, a plan was hatched to build a rail system along the waterfront from Bay Ridge to Greenpoint. However, the system was never built except for a stretch in Sunset Park.

The most effective idea that would relieve road congestion and permit the building of a significant container port in Brooklyn would be a rail freight tunnel under the harbor. There are reports that the Port Authority will release a report next year. Even if that report is favorable, it would take a long time to build that tunnel. The proposal to expand float operation is a step in the right direction, although by itself it would not lead to a container port.

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