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Rock rail plan, still dream, would add Woodhaven stop

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Lew M. Simon's organization is stepping up a campaign to promote new and existing mass transit lines through Queens and neighboring boroughs. Locally, the group seeks the reactivation of the old Rockaway Beach line to provide south Queens residents with a remedy to a burdensome system, which he calls "the worst transportation around.""This will be the shot in the arm that this community needs," Simon said. "The Rockaway Park A train only runs five express trains in the morning and five coming home."Residents of the area know the trials of getting around the borough, he said, not to mention the city. Rockaway commuters traveling to Manhattan often take the A train from Rockaway Park, then switch at Broad Channel to make it into Manhattan. A return trip, however, is labor intensive and plagued with transfers, he said. Residents must switch trains three times from Euclid Avenue to Rockaway Boulevard to Broad Channel before arriving home.In comparison to other potential benefits, supporters said ride time reductions would not be the only benefit to south Queens residents of Rockaway, Broad Channel, Ozone Park, Howard Beach, and Breezy Point. Simon claims several citywide amenities would arise, such as the capability of one-stop rides between Penn Station and JFK Airport, reduced congestion and pollution, enhanced property values, increased economic development and neighborhood beautification. Simon said many south Queens residents are forgoing train use altogether because of difficulties adapting to the existing system. With the proposal, an A-train stop at the Aqueduct racetrack would become the Queens version of Penn Station, serving as the hub of the railroad's activity.From Penn Station to the Rockaways, plans call for adding six new stops at Sunnyside, Rego Park, Parkside, Brooklyn Manor, Woodhaven and Ozone Park. Connections to downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan are also expected to be included.Opposition to the restoration has taken the form of inaction on the part of officials, said Simon. The naysaying and inertia have prompted the committee to try for higher profiled supporters such as Mayor Bloomberg. Unfortunately, not all audiences are listening."We tried to get in touch with the mayor, but we never heard anything," he said.Still the group pushes on with the hopes of turning the rundown Rockaway cutoff into a bustling station once again. And the best part about the restoration, he said, is its cost."The whole project is relatively inexpensive because the necessary work is already done," he said, in reference to the existing rail. Simon said the MTA and Port Authorityhave often disapproved of the plan, which has led to the 10-year fight. The Port Authority's AirTrain system also posed problems for restoring the Rockaway cutoff. The two plans were proposed simultaneously, with the AirTrain winning out, until a devastating accident during a test run delayed service for about a year. After the AirTrain was approved, spending transportation money for other projects rendered the cutoff reactivation unlikely, he said. With a new mayoral election year, Simon said he is now inspired to promote the group's plans once again. A rough cost estimate of the LIRR's Rockaway line comes to around $200 million, he said. This includes a Rails-Plus-Trails biking program, which calls for construction of a bike path paralleling the entire length of the cutoff.In a business where the construction of a new train line has the potential to cost as much as $9 billion, Simon contends the amount for the reactivation is well worth the costs. "Basically, we're trying to put back what was there," he said. "It would be a great thing for all of Queens."

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