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Weigh in on the Mayor’s $2.7B Streetcar Proposal At Williamsburg Meeting Tonight

BQX Rending on 21st Street in Astoria (EDC+DOT)

March 3, 2020 By Allie Griffin

Residents have the chance to weigh in on the City’s $2.7 billion plan to build a streetcar from Astoria to Red Hook at a public workshop tonight.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Bushwick Inlet Park, located at 85 Kent Ave. The March 3 workshop is one of five the City is hosting to gain feedback on the Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) streetcar plan before it moves ahead with an environmental review.

The zero-emission BQX will connect an 11-mile corridor from Astoria, Queens to Red Hook, Brooklyn. It will pass through Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Navy Yard, Downtown Brooklyn, Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens to Red Hook and serve an estimated 400,000 New Yorkers — including 40,000 NYCHA residents, who live along the route.

In Greenpoint and Williamsburg, the BQX route would incorporate Manhattan Avenue, a small part of Greenpoint Avenue, Banker Street and Berry Street.

Route Through Greenpoint and Williamsburg

The route would also cross over a drawbridge above Newtown Creek into Queens– on its way through Long Island City to Astoria. The 1,700-foot span would need to be constructed for the plan and would include a pedestrian and bicycle pathway.

The 11-mile streetcar route would provide connections to 13 subway lines, more than 30 bus routes, nine NYC ferry landings and several Citi Bike stations.

The project is being spearheaded by the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), alongside the Department of Transportation (DOT). Representatives of both will be at the Tuesday night workshop.

The agencies plan to draft an environmental impact statement in spring 2021 after taking feedback from the public and stakeholders and conducting a scoping period.

The BQX was first announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2016 and originally consisted of a 16-mile railway running from Astoria to Sunset Park with a $2.5 billion price tag.

Proposed BQX Route (EDC+DOT)

However, the Sunset Park leg of the proposed route was scrapped by the EDC, with the city-backed organization citing low predicted ridership and high construction costs. The estimated price tag increased to $2.7 billion despite the shorter route.

The City is hoping to fund half of the cost of building the streetcar through added tax revenue of adjacent real estate properties and needs federal funding to cover the remainder, according to the BQX website.

The final environmental impact statement for the BQX will completed in fall 2021, according to the DOT and EDC, but the City will have to complete multiple other processes before construction can begin.

After completing the public engagement and environmental impact stages, the City must secure federal funding, get government approval through a land use application process (ULURP) and begin the process for granting a franchise to enable the City to bring a private partner on board.

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where are the protected bike lanes….we cant have this…think of the bikers….oh the horror no bike paths

and who cares if there is no street car parking businesses dont need my money since they are flush with customers today

Larry Penner

Ask them to explain the missing $1.4 billion federal funding shortfall flaw. After five years, there has been no real progress in securing federal funding for the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Street Car Connector project. In 2015, The Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector originally claimed it could be built for $1.7 billion. In 2016, the NYC Economic Development Corporation said $2.5 billion. Today, the estimated cost is $2.7 billion. How many more billions might it cost upon completion? It takes more than a simple planning feasibility study to turn it into a viable capital transportation improvement project. There have been no completed environmental documents or design and engineering efforts necessary to validate any basic estimates for the $2.7 billion construction costs.

Awarding a $7.25 million consultant contract to perform environmental work supplements the previous $7 million feasibility study for a total of $14.25 million. This leaves the project $2.685 billion short of funding needed for completion. The original completion date has already slipped five years from 2024 to 2029. It is doubtful that the Federal Transit Administration would pay for up to 50% of the cost. Dreams of Amazon doing the same have come and gone since they canceled coming to Long Island City. There is no funding for this project in the MTA $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan, There is no commitment to use future Manhattan congestion pricing toll revenues to help fund this project. It remains to be seen if this project will be included within the pending long range MTA 2020 – 2040 Capital Needs Assessment Plan document. This report was suppose to have been released by the end of December 2019. There is no proposed funding to advance this project in either the upcoming July 1, 2020 – June 30, 2021 City Hall or April 1, 2020 – March 31, 2021 Albany state budgets. No one knows if the next Mayor will support this project and make it a priority under their administration. Mayor Bill de Blasio has yet to request let alone been granted approval to enter the Federal Transit Administration New Starts process for future funding. The project is not included within the March 2019 FTA New Starts report for federal fiscal year 2020. Don’t count on seeing it in the next FTA New Starts report for federal fiscal year 2021. This easily averages five or more years before there is an approved Federal Full Funding Grant Agreement in place. After five years, NYCDOT has been unable to convince FTA to approve $97 million in New Starts funding toward $231 Woodhaven Blvd. Select Bus Service Phase 2. If NYCDOT can’t obtain $97 million, the odds of obtaining $1.4 billion in FTA New Starts funding toward $2.7 billion for the Brooklyn Queens Street Car Connector are slim to none. Without a billion or more from Washington, don’t count on riding the Brooklyn Queens Connector in your life time. Instead, try running simple limited stop bus service on the same route. MTA New York City Transit Queens Bus Network Redesign Draft Plan proposes creation of the new QT 1 bus route. It would cross the Pulaski Bridge to connect Astoria, Long Island City, Greenpoint, Williamsburg, The Brooklyn Navy Yard, and Downtown Brooklyn. This might make for a low cost easy to implement improvement versus the $2.7 billion Brooklyn/Queens Street Car Connector..

(Larry Penner — transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA NYC Transit bus and subway, NYC DOT Staten Island Ferry & private franchised bus operators along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ)


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