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Interborough Express light-rail project declared a ‘game-changer’ for Brooklyn

MTA reports that the daily ridership estimates hover above 100,000, increased transit options for outer borough residents

January 12, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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A light rail transit project on the western coast of Long Island connecting Brooklyn and Queens has gained momentum within the MTA. On Wednesday, the Interborough Express project was certified as light rail, which is a design method that mixes rapid transit and tram features. 

Other existing light rails in the U.S. include the Los Angeles Metro Rail and the New Orleans Streetcar.

The description of the light rail project, provided by the MTA, is as follows:

The Interborough Express is a transformative rapid transit project that would connect currently underserved areas of Brooklyn and Queens. It would substantially cut down on travel times between the two boroughs, reduce congestion, and expand economic opportunities for the people who live and work in the surrounding neighborhoods. 

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

The map of the Interborough Express, which utilizes the LIRR-owned Bay Ridge Branch and the 14-mile freight line that extends all the way to Jackson Heights, Queens. Map courtesy of the MTA

The project would be built along the existing, LIRR-owned Bay Ridge Branch and CSX-owned Fremont Secondary, a 14-mile freight line that extends from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, to Jackson Heights, Queens. It would create a new transit option for close to 900,000 residents of the neighborhoods along the route, along with 260,000 people who work in Brooklyn and Queens. It would connect with up to 17 different subway lines, as well as Long Island Rail Road, with end-to-end travel times anticipated at less than 40 minutes. Daily weekday ridership is estimated at 115,000.   

Using the existing rail infrastructure means the Interborough Express could be built more quickly and efficiently. It would also preserve the Bay Ridge Branch’s use as a freight line, providing an opportunity to connect to the Port Authority’s Cross-Harbor Freight Project. 

After extensive planning, analysis, and public engagement, Light Rail was chosen because it will provide the best service for riders at the best value. It also announced a preliminary list of stations and advanced other important planning and engineering analysis of the project.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes. Photo courtesy of Andrew Gounardes

New York State Senator Gounardes indicated support for the project, which he declared would be a ‘game-changer’ for Brooklyn and Queens residents. 

“For too long, southern Brooklyn has lacked significant transit connections with other parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and beyond,” wrote Senator Gounardes in a statement on Wednesday.

“With the Interborough Express on the horizon, that stands to change. The light rail capabilities to connect up to 17 different subway lines will be a game-changer for our neighborhoods here in southern Brooklyn, and I look forward to continuing to partner with the Governor, my legislative partners, and our community to get it done.”

The Bay Ridge Branch tracks below 5th Ave., currently owned by the Long Island Rail Road, which would be incorporated in the proposed Interborough Express. Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022. Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA

The purported list of benefits for the Interborough Express, provided by the MTA, includes enhanced transit for neighborhoods where over a third of the population lives below the federal poverty line:

  • A direct public transit option between Brooklyn and Queens 
  • Connections with up to 17 subway lines and Long Island Rail Road 
  • A faster commute — end-to-end rides are expected to take 40 minutes 
  • A new transit option in underserved locations where more than a third of residents are below the federal poverty line

The update provided on Jan. 11 indicates that the Interborough Express is still in the planning phase.

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