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QNS Rail study shows feasibility at low cost: DOT

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The results of a city-funded feasibility study shows that reactivation of the LIRR’s Lower Montauk Branch, commonly known as the QNS Rail, could see 5.6 million riders annually, as well as provide service as a freight line, at an estimated cost of $2.2 billion.

The unused 8.5 miles of elevated right-of-way runs from Jamaica Center to Hunters Point, but low ridership caused the MTA to discontinue service in 2012.

Former Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley funded the study with $500,000 from the city’s FY 2017 budget and it was performed by AECOM, which found that to restore commuter service would cost $1.1 billion and another $1.1 billion to make the tracks compatible for freight.

“Too many of our Queens communities are transportation deserts,” Crowley said. “Our hard-working residents lack decent, local access to public transit, and then wind up spending too much time commuting on unreliable service.”

The study, released in a city Dept. of Transportation report, claims that about 180,000 residents, 95,000 jobs and three important industrial zones are within a half mile of the tracks. Housing costs along the line are 60 percent less than the city average, and it would bring relief to transit riders on the over-burdened E, F, G, and L subway lines.

The DOT touted the fact that reactivation of the track would cost 90 percent less than the 2nd Avenue Subway — about $2.5 billion per mile — since the MTA already owns the right-of-way, and claimed the project would spur development on 129 million square feet of unused land without requiring a zoning change.

But Crowley’s successor, who won a narrow victory over the incumbent in the November 2017 general election, saw the study as little more than wasted funds on a project that will never happen amid turmoil currently rocking the MTA.

Councilman Robert Holden (D-Glendale) pointed out that the city, state, and MTA are still arguing over how they should split the $800 million needed to fund MTA Chair Joe Lhota’s short-term plan to stabilize the ailing subways, which City Hall is reluctant to pay for.

“This study was a colossal waste of money that could have otherwise been used to benefit my district.... Instead, those tax dollars went to fund a study for a project that is both infeasible and undesirable,” Holden said. “Despite projected population growth in the area, I don’t believe renewing service to the Branch is the best solution to the transit issues faced by Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Ridgewood, Woodhaven, and Woodside.... The fact that half a million dollars in Speaker’s funds were spent to procure this study shows a complete lack of understanding of the community and its transportation needs.”

With stops in Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Ridgwood and Richmond Hill, the QNS Rail could see a weekly ridership of 21,000 people and has already been approve by the five community board within its range.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Updated 8:25 am, February 18, 2018
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Reader feedback

Christina Wilkinson says:
Fact check: NO community board approved the light rail plan. All they voted in favor of was to authorize the study. They couldn't have approved the plan before the feasibility study was conducted.
Feb. 18, 6:59 am
Pedro Valdez-Rivera says:
Say goodbye to newer transit projects during the era of Trump.
Feb. 20, 5:25 pm
John from Forest Hills says:
With daily reports of the virtual collapse of the mass transit system, Mr. Holden's response is to put his head in the sand? The Branch project seems almost ready made, with right of way and most infrastructure already in place. Mr. Holden again demonstrates his bona fides as a card carrying member of the Luddite class in arguing that the potential light rail use of the Branch right of way should not at least be evaluated.
Feb. 21, 6:58 am

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