According to reporting on WNYC (Oct. 9), New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority is considering a completely new line of rail service, using the Hell Gate Bridge to allow trains to run from Connecticut and Westchester through the Bronx and into Queens, Manhattan, and possibly Brooklyn. MTA reportedly has asked residents of the East Bronx how they would react to the possibility of 4 new stations on the line. Reaction has been generally positive, although residents question what the fares would be. One estimate is that fares other than to Manhattan would be no more than $5 (half for seniors/disabled), which would be the lowest on the MTA commuter rail system. The report suggested that trains might also stop in Queens and Brooklyn. The Hell Gate Line, owned by Amtrak, passes through northwestern Queens enroute to Penn Station in Manhattan, and hosts only Amtrak trains bound for New England, usually no more than 1 per hour in each direction; there would seem to be substantial unused capacity. No details were mentioned about Brooklyn service; the logical route would be via the Long Island Rail Road’s Bay Ridge branch, underutilized for decades but with a direct connection to the Hell Gate Bridge. The Bay Ridge line, once a heavy freight route, currently sees only occasional freight trains from the New York & Atlantic freight carrier and various connecting systems. The new line would give MTA rail commuters access for the first time to a terminal on the west side of Manhattan in addition to current service to Grand Central Terminal on Manhattan’s east side. The new line would reportedly be funded out of MTA’s own capital budget.
The Lackawanna Coalition believes that underused rail corridors must be exploited to fully serve the population of the Tri-State region. In addition, all commuters to Manhattan deserve access to terminals on both sides of Midtown; MTA is to be commended for planning to expand the options available to its riders. Although New Jersey planners have paid lip service to the idea of east-side access for NJ commuters, this always seems to vanish as new projects are planned.