Brooklyn Boro

RFP to study Cross-Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel connecting NJ and Brooklyn

Tunnel backed by Cuomo and Nadler

May 8, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This rendering shows the interior of the proposed Cross-Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel. Rendering courtesy of the Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo

The Port Authority will soon be issuing an RFP (Request for Proposals) for a “Tier II” Environmental Impact Study to explore the impact and feasibility of the long-contemplated Cross-Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel connecting Brooklyn to New Jersey.

The project is strongly backed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Rep. Jerrold Nadler.

A Tier I environmental study identified such a tunnel under New York Harbor as one of several possible solutions to alleviate traffic congestion from trucks hauling freight into the city through Manhattan and Staten Island, and connect New York City directly to the national freight rail grid.

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An alternative solution that will be evaluated in the Tier II study is the enhancement of an existing railcar float-barge operation. While this operation would handle less freight, it is much less expensive than a cross-harbor tunnel — $175 million vs. billions of dollars, according to the draft Tier 1 study.

A 3.5 mile cross-harbor tunnel would run between an existing rail yard in the Greenville area of Jersey City and connect with existing rail infrastructure at the 65th Street rail yard in Bay Ridge. Existing but dilapidated tracks in Brooklyn and Queens would have to be rebuilt, and a facility to transfer the freight from rail to trucks for ultimate delivery would also have to be developed. An area near Newtown Creek has been considered for this facility.

Port Authority has committed up to $35 million for the study and has available up to another $35 million for design and engineering, according to a release from Cuomo and Nadler.

Nadler has pushed the idea of a cross-harbor tunnel for three decades, starting from his time in the state Assembly. He said in Monday’s statement that the Cross-Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel would remove trucks from the streets and divert them to an underutilized rail network, and applauded the Tier II study as a milestone.


“It will change the way we move goods throughout our region for the better, with economic, environmental, health, safety and cost-saving benefits for millions of people,” he said.

“New York leads the nation in tackling the largest and most complex infrastructure challenges head on, and this project will identify an innovative, 21st century solution to streamline congestion and support economic growth for generations to come,” Cuomo said.

Those who back the tunnel say it would greatly decrease the cost of doing business by improving the efficiency of freight delivery, and would help reduce congestion on roads and bridges, improve air quality and allow better movement of emergency vehicles and buses. The Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel would remove 1,800 trucks from New York Harbor crossings per day.

Backers also say a tunnel would create 12,500 to 18,000 direct jobs and an equal number of indirect jobs.

Members of Community Board 10 (Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights), however, said in 2015 they were concerned about the impact the plans a dramatic increase in truck traffic would have on the neighborhood, since some of the trains would be unloaded at the 65th Street rail yard and the goods would be placed onto trucks.

“It looks like we’re going to be the hub. It’s something that can change the fabric of a community,” said Jayne Capetanakis, chairman of Community Board 10’s Traffic and Transportation Committee, who issued a report on the cross harbor tunnel proposal.

In 2004, then-Councilmembers Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn) and Dennis Gallagher (R-Queens) said increasing the number of freight trains running through Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods would ruin the quality of life for people who have lived there for years, according to nationalcorridors.org, an online magazine for rail professionals.

“If this becomes a reality, there will be 15 trains and 1,600 cars every day,” Felder was quoted as saying. “That will destroy these neighborhoods.”

The Brooklyn Eagle has reached out to Felder, now a state senator, for further comment.

In 2005, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out against the tunnel idea. He changed his stance in 2007, however, saying he would take another look at the project, according to the Daily News.

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This story was updated on May 9 to indicate that the RFP will soon be issued, rather than already issued.

 


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