BY BENJAMIN FANG
The Department of Transportation (DOT) has released its year-long study on the feasibility of bringing passenger rail service back to the Lower Montauk Branch from Jamaica to Long Island City.
Conducted by engineering firm AECOM, the study concludes that mixing light rail for commuters with current freight operations is feasible. If implemented, the QNS Rail could serve 5.8 million riders annually, with an estimated weekday ridership of 21,000 people.
The capital cost of the project for passenger rail alone exceeds $1 billion, with the majority of funds going to new transit infrastructure. Other expenditures include purchasing the fleet, maintenance equipment and other facilities.
Another $1 billion in upgrades would be needed to maintain freight service, including investment in an additional track, signals and a storage and maintenance yard.
Former councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who championed the light rail and funded the $500,000 study when she was in office, said compared to the MTA’s Second Avenue expansion, which was just three miles long, this project is worth the cost.
“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.”
All five community boards affected by the QNS Rail have approved the concept. Borough President Melinda Katz has also come out in favor of the project, and mentioned it in her latest State of the Borough address.
The study proposes 10 stops running along the nine-mile track, anchored by stations in Long Island City and Jamaica. Along the way, the rail would stop in Maspeth, Middle Village, Glendale, Ridgewood and Richmond Hill.
Stations in Richmond Hill, the Metro Mall and 80th Street are projected to have the highest ridership of the 10 stations. AECOM also considered possible operating hours of service. The firm proposed running the commuter rail from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., but no overnight service.
During peak hours, which are 6 to 10 a.m. and 4 to 8 p.m., service would run every six minutes. During off-peak hours and the weekend, the rail would arrive every 15 minutes.