The Department of Transportation last week released a very preliminary study on the potential for a commuter rail line that would run from Jamaica to Hunters Point in Long Island City, passing through Richmond Hill, Middle Village and Maspeth along the way.
The 8.5 miles of track would connect residents to booming industrial hubs. The study says it would “link with 95,000 existing jobs in three of the city most important industrial zones,” while spurring economic development in the neighborhoods where the ten new stops will be located.
And it's not only about jobs, but new housing options. Monthly housing costs along the planned route are just 60 percent of the New York City average.
But the best part about this plan is that it uses tracks and existing rights-of-way already owned by the MTA that are currently used to carry freight. That means no eminent domain and no costly acquisition of property.
The biggest challenge will be making sure that the passenger and freight trains can coexist safely, a hardly insurmountable feat.
It's reminiscent of another plan currently in the works: the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, or BQX. The BQX would arguably serve more people and connect the exploding waterfront communities of Brooklyn and Queens in a way they have never been before.
But there are a number of issues with that project, namely acquiring all of the necessary property to make it a reality. The BQX is a project that is decades in the making, if it ever comes to fruition.
But The QNS rail, as it's unofficially known, only requires investing in the infrastructure, such as new trains and stations. We say “only” realizing that is still a monumental undertaking.
The study estimates it will cost at least $2.2 billion to make it a reality, and that is if work started today. There's no telling what construction costs will be in coming years.
But it is expected to serve 6.6 million passengers annually. For comparison's sake, let's take a look at phase one of the 2nd Avenue subway.
That project was 1.8 miles and created three new stations at a cost of $4.5 billion. The QNS rail would be 8.5 miles and include ten new stations for $2.2 billion. A relative bargain.
It's unlikely that there will be any new traditional subways built in the outer boroughs ever again. The QNS would cut right through a huge area of the borough where there is no train service – in fact, it would increase the area of Queens served by the subway by 13 percent – and even connect to the M train for greater connectivity to the rest of the subway system.
A chance like this won't come along very often. It's worth a hard look.