Pols want more right of way hours for train commuters along Rockaway bridge

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Elected officials are calling on the U.S. Coast Guard and the MTA to extend right-of-way peak hours for trains along Rockaway’s Beach Channel Rail Bridge.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), state Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder (D-Howard Beach) and City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) are calling on the two agencies to investigate train and maritime travel on the bridge and think about expanding right-of-way train times for commuters traveling during rush hours.

“Families who have the longest commutes in the entire city should not be burdened by boats that have pass to under the bridge,” Goldfeder said. “We need to respect the struggle that our families are going through and do the best we can to accommodate everyone.”

Schumer agreed, noting that residents of southern Queens and Rockaway already have “enough of a struggle” in their daily commute.

“We make it even more difficult when we use inaccurate travel times to determine who has the right of way,” he said in a statement. “If we can bridge this gap of knowledge, we can ease the travel burden for commuters and it can be smooth sailing for watercrafts and trains through the Beach Channel Rail Bridge.”

Between 6:45 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. and between 5 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. Monday through Friday, train traffic has the right-of-way, but at most other times, priority is given to watercraft, the elected officials said.

In 2006, the Coast Guard approved these travel times to accommodate commuters during rush hours but still enable efficient navigation by watercrafts, but the times do not satisfy constituents’ needs, they said.

They want the agencies to determine more precise travel times for commuters and called on the MTA to request that the Coast Guard’s district commander conduct the evaluation to extend the times.

The Coast Guard controls the bridge’s schedule, but any changes associated with the bridge have to be evaluated and requested by the MTA, the owner and operator, before they can be approved.

The Coast Guard said a number of factors go into determining appropriate bridge schedules and a formal process for requesting changes to bridge operation schedules.

“The Coast Guard will engage with stakeholders to determine the best course of action after reviewing any proposed changes,” a spokesman said.

Kevin Ortiz, an MTA spokesman, said it is possible to extend the right-of-way peak hours, but it is too early to elaborate further.

“We are supportive and will work with the USCG moving forward,” Ortiz said in an email.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

Posted 12:00 am, July 14, 2015
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