After a three-year hiatus, the process that may bring an underground rail line into Maspeth has resumed under the guidance of a different government entity.
The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey announced in November that it would complete the final environmental impact statement for the Cross Harbor Freight Transportation Project, a controversial proposal intended to take commercial trucks off Manhattan’s Hudson River crossings via a rail tunnel between Jersey City and a proposed train-truck transfer station in Maspeth.
The New York City Transportation Coordinating Council, a body that oversees the projects of various city and state agencies, recently added the completion of the environmental impact statement to its four-year transportation improvement program.
“It will look at the possibility of the tunnel as well as potential other options for moving freight across the harbor,” said Port Authority spokesman Steve Coleman, noting that the agency took a step toward reducing truck traffic when in 2007 it bought the New York New Jersey Rail Corp., which floats rail cars on barges between New Jersey and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. “That’s one avenue that we took advantage of right away. But there might be other avenues that the EIS comes up with that we haven’t explored yet.”
The only other rail link across the Hudson River is operated by CSX and located 100 miles to the north near Albany, the Port Authority said, which adds 200 miles to the trip rail freight goods take going south and west of the city.
The EIS is slated to cost $12 million and to be finished in 2010. The preliminary statement conducted by the city Economic Development Corp. in 2005 recommended a tunnel between the rail yards in Jersey City and what would become a new rail yard in Maspeth, where the freight would be loaded onto trucks.
The plan outraged area politicians and civic leaders, who complained that Maspeth, Ridgewood and Middle Village are already overrun by excessive commercial vehicle traffic because of its proximity to the Long Island Expressway.
“It’s a boondoggle,” said Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association. “It’s a waste of taxpayer’s money. I don’t think it will ever happen.”
Both Holden and fellow Juniper Park member Tony Nunziato worried about how the project would affect the former Phelps Dodge site, which was included in the 140-acre parcel eyed for the construction of the Maspeth Rail Yard.
Shortly after the tunnel plan ran into funding trouble in 2005, major wholesaler Restaurant Depot opened a branch at the property.
“The waterfront’s being revitalized,” Nunziato said, referring to the polluted Newtown Creek. “Everything’s being redone, bringing industry and businesses back. What are we going to do? Try eminent domain? The land is taken.”
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn) spearheaded the effort to transfer responsibility for the project from the EDC to the Port Authority.
“This is not simply an important transportation proposal but would be a huge boon to our region’s economy, to our workforce, to our environment and to our connection to the rest of the world,” he said.
The two Queens congressmen in the area, U.S. Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) and Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) did not return requests for comment by press time Tuesday.
Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2009 Community News Group
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