The program is aimed at providing another option for cargo trucks that currently go through Manhattan to get to Queens, Brooklyn, Long Island and upstate New York.
The Power Authority is studying options to get freight cargo across the harbor from New Jersey into the Maspeth area of Queens. Power Authority officials said at a recent stakeholder meeting in Newark that the project would connect the New York Harbor to a national freight system.
But community leaders in Maspeth and surrounding areas wonder why their pocket of Queens is repeatedly targeted as a truck route.
“Every rail car we float across the harbor today reduces truck traffic,” said John Formosa of the Federal Highway Administration, who spoke at the Newark meeting. “We continue to seek new markets and we continue to seek improvements of the infrastructure to make new markets practical.”
After conducting an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), officials at the meeting said the Maspeth area has less truck traffic now than it did at the time of the last EIS, around 2006. They said the goal of the program is to further reduce truck traffic in the area.
“This is a highway program with the intent to improve the overall highway system and the overall New York City area,” Formosa said. “We are very much committed to making this a better highway network.”
The Power Authority is currently studying three alternatives. One is a rail tunnel under the harbor in which trucks would unload cargo onto a train on one side and pick it back up on the other.
Another option is a chunnel, in which trucks would drive onto trains on one side of the tunnel and off at the other.
A rail float is also an alternative, which would involve barges toting cargo off trucks across the harbor.
A spokesman for the Power Authority said the program is still in its beginning stages and all three alternatives are under study. Impacts from the alternatives are not yet determined.
But residents in Maspeth, Glendale and Middle Village question how unloading cargo in their neighborhood will reduce truck traffic.
Gary Giordano, district manager for Community Board 5, attended another Power Authority meeting in Manhattan on Tuesday, January 31, about a week after the Newark meeting.
“It certainly seems to me like they want to use these float barges,” he said, “so that's certainly going to put more freight on rail.”
The freight, he said, would be unloaded at the Fresh Pond Road rail yard in Glendale, which already experiences 24-hour activity.
“If you take trucks off the road, that's very good from the standpoint of the Long Island Expressway, the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway,” Giordano said. “But it's bad for those neighborhoods that have to handle now all the freight rail traffic.”
Giordano said the Power Authority should focus on reducing the number of trucks used in the freight rail system by consolidating cargo. He said the agency should make the system more efficient, rather than building a tunnel system to accommodate the current load.
“So how is one going to improve traffic conditions and decrease the pollution that truck traffic brings?” Giordano said he asked at the meeting. “And I don't really think they had an answer to that question.”