Brooklyn Boro

EIS to resume on long-delayed Cross-Harbor Freight Program

Tunnel option would remove 1,800 trucks per day

February 9, 2022 Raanan Geberer
The Port Authority will be issuing an RFP for a “Tier II” study to examine the proposed Cross-Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel that would run between Jersey City and Bay Ridge, visualized in the map above. Map courtesy of the Office of Gov. Andrew Cuomo
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The Port Authority plans to resume work on a Tier 2 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the oft-discussed but long-stalled Cross Harbor Freight Movement Program, according to Gov. Kathy Hochul and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan).

As part of the review, the EIS will look at how a possible freight tunnel between Southwest Brooklyn and New Jersey could work in concert with the Interborough Express transit line between Brooklyn and Queens. 

The Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel, as the proposal has been known, would remove about 1,800 trucks per day from New York Harbor crossings, according to an Eagle article from 2017.While the freight cars would have to share part of the same right-of-way in Brooklyn (the LIRR’s Bay Ridge Freight Line) with the new Interborough line, renderings of the Interborough show transit cars and freight trains side-by-side on adjacent tracks.

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As a second option, the Port Authority’s EIS looks at enhancing existing float operations between Brooklyn and New Jersey. Currently, barges bearing use the 65th Street railyard in Bay Ridge. According to “Untapped Cities,” materials that have been transported by float include soybean oil, Washington State apples, recycled material and scrap metal, as well as new MTA subway cars.

With the help of U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, federal funds from the Federal Highway Administration have been repurposed to immediately resume the preparation of a Tier 2 EIS that will perform the legally required, detailed analysis of the environmental effects. 

The EIS will also analyze potential mitigation measures for the two preferred alternatives identified in the prior Tier 1 study to reduce the current dependence on trucks to move freight across New York Harbor.   

This rendering of the proposed Interborough Express shows an Interborough train with a freight train on the adjacent track at Wilson Avenue in Bushwick. Photo courtesy of MTA

Nadler, in particular, has been pushing for the Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel since the 1990s, and studies were done around 2000 and in 2014. 

As long ago as the 1920s, the never-completed subway tunnel between Brooklyn and Staten Island was supposed to carry freight trains as well. If the tunnel had been completed, the trains could have run along the Staten Island Railway’s now-defunct North Shore Line, and from there into New Jersey as well.

“New York is committed to investing in a robust transit network that connects communities and includes cutting-edge projects for the movement of goods and cargo,” Hochul said. “We are aggressively moving forward with the next phase of development for the Cross Harbor Rail Freight project as we look to reimagine New York’s transportation infrastructure.”

The 65th Street Railyard, also known as the Bay Ridge Yard, with the rail float facilities in the background. Wikimedia photo by Jim Henderson

The rail tunnel option calls for construction of a freight tunnel under the New York Harbor that would run approximately four miles from Jersey City to Brooklyn. The railcar float alternative would greatly expand the existing car float system, currently operated by New York New Jersey Rail LLC, and would include new transfer bridges, car floats, locomotives and tracks.  

Nadler said, “I am thrilled that this critical transportation infrastructure project, which I have supported for 30 years, is moving forward. The Cross-Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel would connect New York’s metropolitan region to the national rail freight grid by diverting trucks from our streets to the underutilized rail network. It will change the way we move freight throughout our region, leading to economic, environmental, health, safety and cost-saving benefits for millions of people.”

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said, “New York City is coming back, and this project would add critical infrastructure that will help our economy continue to grow for decades. We can’t settle for a return to the world before the pandemic — we need projects like this one to set up our city to thrive today and into the future.”

The review, which will also explore potential funding sources for the two options, will include extensive outreach to all stakeholders, including elected officials and the public, will provide the Port Authority and other regional agencies with cost and benefits of each alternative to help reduce roadway congestion attributed to goods movement across the New York/New Jersey Harbor.  

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