DOT Publishes Mammoth Light Rail Study Report

DOT Publishes Mammoth Light Rail Study Report

Photo Courtesy of Dallas Area Rapid Transit

The study examines the feasibility of returning passenger service, via light rail (pictured), to the Lower Montauk Branch rail corridor.

By Michael V. Cusenza
There is a potential ridership base and workable operating plan for passenger service on the defunct Lower Montauk Branch, according to engineers who authored the mammoth “Lower Montauk Branch Passenger Rail Study” that was sponsored by former City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and recently published by the City Department of Transportation.
“Significant capital investments to support both passenger and freight service in the same rail corridor would be required. This joint service would support the existing residential, commercial, and industrial landscape of the corridor while allowing for change in use and density in response to the expansion of transit accessibility and mobility,” members of the engineering firm AECOM, USA, Inc. wrote.
The study examined the feasibility of returning passenger service to the Lower Montauk Branch: a two-track, nine-mile, non-electrified rail line running through Queens from Jamaica to the east, terminating in Long Island City in the west. Opened in the mid-19th century, the branch once served as one of the main rail lines through Queens from Long Island City to Jamaica, providing passenger service to Maspeth, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Glendale, and Richmond Hill.
According to the report, the frequency of the passenger service on the branch rapidly declined after World War II, and as a result ridership plummeted. Service to stations between Jamaica and Long Island City ceased in 1998, passenger service was discontinued altogether in 2012, and the line has subsequently been leased out to the New York and Atlantic Railway, which provides rail freight service to Long Island and to industrial customers along the branch in Queens.
Crowley proposed the first passenger service feasibility study in 2015. The analysis was initiated by AECOM in December 2016.
While the firm’s report details the potential for returning passenger service via light rail, engineers also cautioned that more analysis was needed.
“The Lower Montauk Branch once served a bustling commuting population. As the landscape changed, service was reduced before being eliminated completely. The ‘Lower Montauk Branch Rail Study’ aimed to analyze the preliminary feasibility of reactivating this line for passenger service. Like any rail project, the Lower Montauk Branch requires significant study and investment to properly evaluate its feasibility,” AECOM wrote. “The high-level analysis performed on the various aspects of the corridor and rail operations is only an initial step in the process. This study would serve as a foundation for any further reactivation studies, which would fully and quantitatively analyze passenger service possibilities on the Lower Montauk Branch.”
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