Gov. Kathy Hochul’s plan to build a public transit link between Brooklyn and Queens picked up steam Thursday as she released an initial MTA study into the project.
Under the framework, an underutilized 14-mile freight line would be converted into a new “Interborough Express” service connecting neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens.
“I am so excited to announce that we have finished the feasibility study,” Hochul said during a press conference at the Brooklyn terminus of the proposed line. “And what that does is launch the next phase.”
“We know we have a path forward, and it starts with the completion of the feasibility study that I’m announcing right now,” she said.
Backed by local politicians like Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, the long-floated new commuter service would run from Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to Jackson Heights in Queens, snaking through Borough Park, East Flatbush, Bushwick, Ridgewood and Maspeth on the way.
The new line would provide the first new major transit link between Brooklyn and Queens in generations, allowing for direct trips on routes that would have previously required repeated bus transfers or detours to Manhattan via the subway.
Hochul’s MTA estimates the new line would carry as many as 88,000 riders a day.
“The Interborough Express is a project that has a potential to provide much-needed transit access in Brooklyn and Queens,” said US Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), who represents Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Transit advocates and city planners have eyed the rail corridor as a way to expand transit access and better link the outerboroughs since at least the 1990s, but officials had made little progress in making the new service a reality until 2020.
That year, the MTA commissioned a tentative $1.3 million initial study of the proposal that gave high marks to the proposed Brooklyn-Queens link, which then landed a star spot in Gov. Hochul’s first State of the State address.
Now, the MTA will initiate a more thorough review, complete with a series of public meetings.
MTA Chair Janno Lieber told reporters Thursday the transit line would have a price tag in the “single-digit billions of dollars,” and construction would take between three and five years, and would begin following a roughly two-year federal environmental review.
“We are doing a federally compliant environmental review because we want to make sure it can be eligible for federal money — because the federal money is starting to flow,” he explained.
“For a project of this complexity and scale, to have that right-of-way to work with right off the bat is an unbelievable head start and we’re going to make use of it,” said Lieber.
One of the biggest decisions that the Hochul-controlled MTA will have to make about the new line is what mode of transit it will use — commuter rail trains configured with subway-like interiors, trolley-like trains likely powered by overhead wires that require smaller stations or a dedicated expressway for bus service.
The MTA included all three options in a 21-page presentation that summarized the findings of its initial study, which was notable both for what it included as well as what it left out.
The document, obtained by The Post via a Freedom of Information Law request, showed the MTA went to great lengths to preserve space for future cargo service — a key component of Nadler’s decades-long intention to build a tunnel between Brooklyn and New Jersey.
The MTA says those requirements mean that segments of the route through Brooklyn would need to be elevated above the freight tracks due to safety requirements if it pursued either the light rail or bus way options.
Heavier commuter trains must meet federal requirements to run alongside freight trains.
The document did not include an exact cost of the project or a timeline for it, but elevating portions of the route would likely dramatically increase price tag and add time to construction.
If completed, the project would mean faster trips directly between boroughs without a stop in Manhattan, with the light rail trams and buses speeding between Jackson Heights and Bay Ridge in just 40 minutes or less. The heavier trains running alongside freight would take at least 45 minutes to complete the trip.
Local politicians praised Hochul for getting the project out of the station.
“For far too many Queens families and communities, the inability to travel between boroughs in a quick and efficient manner has been an unnecessary detriment to the economic health, and quite frankly, ability to grow,” said Richards, a former city councilman representing parts of southeast Queens. “By transforming these existing freight lines, connecting Bay Ridge and Jackson Heights … we can now connect thousands of families in each borough all while cutting commute times.”
Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso thanked the governor for “following through” and “not hesitating” to move the project forward.
“That is a rare thing, when it comes to transportation infrastructure,” he said.