2017-12-27 / Editorials

Letters to the Editor

RIP Light Rail

The defeat of Queens NYC Council Member Elizabeth Crowley may also signal the end of the line for her proposed Long Island Rail Road Lower Montauk branch Light Rail Project. Council Member Crowley was the chief advocate for this project. Her successor, newly elected NYC Council Member Robert Holden, is not a supporter of the project. The ongoing $500,000 feasibility study for the introduction of light rail may be the last stop for this project. Even her good friend Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a recent Town Hall meeting that there was little likelihood the project would proceed.

Even with a planning feasibility study, millions more would have been needed to pay for environmental documents, along with preliminary design and engineering, followed by final design and engineering efforts necessary to validate any basic estimates for construction costs. Crowley’s previously stated belief that it would be under $100 million never added up. New Jersey Transit’s Hudson Bergen Light Rail cost $1.2 billion and Newark Elizabeth Light Rail cost $694 million 16 years ago. Clearly costs would be far greater in today’s dollars.

There are no dollars programmed to support any work for advancement of this project contained with the approved MTA’s $32 billion 2015-2019 Five Year Capital Plan. Ditto for the MTA 2014- 2034 Twenty Year Capital Needs Assessment Plan. There is also no money in the 2017-2018 municipal budget to do the same.

Cost estimates would have to be refined as progress proceeds beyond the planning and environmental phases into real and final design efforts. History has shown that estimated costs for construction usually trend upwards as projects mature toward 100% final design. Progression of final design refines the detailed scope of work necessary to support construction. The anticipated final potential cost would never be known until completion. Costs would be further refined by award of construction contracts followed by any unforeseen site conditions and change orders to the base contracts during the course of construction.

The proposed route would traverse several neighborhoods, impacting thousands of people living nearby. How will they react to potential noise and visual impacts? There are serious legal and operational issues to be resolved with the Federal Railroad Administration. They have regulatory jurisdiction over significant portions of the proposed route which would run on existing active freight tracks. You have to deal with light rail and freight trains coexisting on the same narrow corridor. There is no available project budget to justify key project component costs. They would have to cover a series of new stations. These will have to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) access standards; grade crossing, signal and safety improvements, a fleet of new light rail vehicles, land acquisition, potential business relocation along with construction of a new maintenance, operations and storage yard to support any light rail car fleet. Which neighborhood will want to step forward and host the maintenance, operations and storage yard? Other Queens elected officials, transit riders and transit advocacy groups all have their own transportation priority projects which may conflict with this proposal.

The MTA (NYC Transit) in 1983 conducted the Queens Subway Options feasibility study for potential conversion of this LIRR branch to a subway on the ground. Intense vocal, local community opposition killed this project before it progressed beyond a planning study. The same community opposition had already begun for introduction of any active light rail as well.

You would have to wait for approval of MTA’s next Five Year 2020-2024 Capital Program for any chance of MTA funding. The alternative would be 100% NYC funding, which is very doubtful. Since no one is left to champion or deliver several hundred million dollars to build a light rail system, which could take a decade or more, why not ask the LIRR to resume service on this corridor? They could run a two-car scoot service reconnecting Long Island City, Glendale and Middle Village with other communities, including Richmond Hill and other intermediate stops to Jamaica. The LIRR could use existing equipment which would afford far earlier implementation of service versus light rail. This would provide connections east bound, to the J/Z and E subway lines, Kennedy Airport via Train to Plane and the Jamaica LIRR Station. Queens residents traveling to jobs and colleges in Nassau and Suffolk counties would have access to all LIRR branches, except the Port Washington line. Ditto for those traveling to the Barclay Center and downtown Brooklyn via the LIRR Atlantic Avenue branch. There would also be connections westbound at either Hunters Point or Long Island City LIRR stations to the 7 subway line.

Larry Penner
Great Neck

Only Serves The 1%

To The Editor:

Positive train control must be instituted on all trains. The accident in Washington state, when the Amtrak train derailed and fell onto the interstate, could have been avoided. Electronic candles on the menorah must be used, not regular lit ones, since that fire killed and critically injured a family in Brooklyn. I am glad that there will be a market in Rego Park for Christmas. Also am glad that there will be online registration to vote, but can people who cannot use a computer register by phone? That is good that the libraries will offer many movies free of charge via Kanopy. I agree with Constantinides that there must be cleaner power generation and I hope that bill gets passed. There are too many bike lanes. This causes trouble for cars and pedestrians. Long Island City is becoming not a neighborhood, but too commercialized, with tall buildings. I am glad that there will be an anti-bullying bill passed since bullying in schools. 81% of children are being bullied and that leads to mental illness and suicide. The Right to Know law is good and will tell the public that the police officer is genuine and can prevent needless misunderstandings.

I am so disappointed that the tax reform bill was passed and will only serve and benefit the one percent and people like Trump. This law will hurt our economy and increase our deficit. It was done behind closed doors and did not allow time to think it through like Reagan’s tax reform legislation, which took two years to pass.

Cynthia Groopman
Little Neck

Intelligent Life Here?

To The Editor:

It has been reported that American taxpayers have paid $22 million for UFO research. The Pentagon has spent this amount of money from 2008 to 2012. Now my question is: is this money well-spent, and have encounters proven fruitful? Also, have ETs made their mission here known to our leaders? Or have they phoned home to their leaders on another planet to say that there is no intelligent life here? Well if I was an alien I would say, “The Force is not present here, beam me up Scotty!”

Frederick R. Bedell Jr.
Glen Oaks Village

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