The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) included restoring the abandoned line, including the LIRR Bay Ridge and the Rockaway Beach Branch, as a part of its 20-Year Capital Needs Assessment.
“A possible option is the utilization of abandoned or underutilized Rights of Way such as the LIRR Bay Ridge Branch (linking southern and eastern Brooklyn with Central and northern Queens) or the abandoned Rockaway Beach Branch (linking Howard Beach and Ozone Park with Woodhaven) as transverse routes linking radial subway lines,” read the report.
While the report simply outlines possible focus areas for the coming years, according to a representative of the MTA, supporters of restoring train service are hopeful this is a step in the right direction.
“This report is a huge step forward and I will continue to work closely with my colleagues, Governor Cuomo and the MTA until the Rockaway Beach Rail Line becomes reality,” said Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder.
Goldfeder first called on Cuomo back in February 2012 to revitalize the rail line in order to ease the burden on commuters.
Today, Goldfeder is working with congressmen Gregory Meeks and Hakeem Jefferies to utilize portions of federal relief funding from Sandy disaster aid to restore the train and assist residents effected by the storm.
"The MTA has heard our calls for smart investment in existing right of ways to improve transit infrastructure, create jobs, while helping each family in Queens and across the city in their daily commutes,” said Goldfeder.
Meanwhile, Andrea Crawford, a steering committee member with the Friends of the QueensWay, which is working to turn the abandoned rail line into a greenway, said she does not necessarily think the report means there will be train service.
“I’m not impressed,” Crawford said regarding the report. “To me it doesn’t say that they intend to build a new train line through central Queens. It’s been sitting vacant for over 50 years. This would be a major capital undertaking and it would cost billions.”
Phillip McManus, founder of the Queens Public Transit Committee, is a firm believer that the positives of a train line will outweigh the negatives.
“People don’t realize how important it is to reopen the Rockaway Beach Line and have another corridor,” McManus said. “The park is going to be good for some people, but the people of the Rockaways, who need transportation for food are worried about being shot. They’re not going to care about a park.”
The train service was shut down in 1950, and McManus said the neighborhood has since struggled without ample transportation.
“This is a way to grant access to jobs, schools and hopefully it will spread the wealth,” he said.