New York’s Governor Hochul wants to link Queens and Brooklyn via the Interborough Express

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New York’s Governor Hochul wants to link Queens and Brooklyn via the Interborough Express

An abandoned platform along the Bay Ridge Branch as seen in East New York. Under Governor Kathy Hochul’s Interborough Express plan, 14 miles of the derelict route would be converted into a cross-borough commuter and freight rail line. (Pi.1415926535/Wikimedia Commons, accessed under CC BY-SA 3.0)

Today, New York Governor Kathy Hochul presented plans to link Jackson Heights, Queens, with the Bay Ridge neighborhood in Brooklyn via a new commuter train line that would piggyback off the city’s existing (but disused) elevated freight rail infrastructure. Dubbed the Interborough Express, the 14-mile-long route is a truncated version of the 24-mile Triboro proposal originally presented by the Regional Plan Association (RPA).

In the governor’s first State of State address today, Hochul revealed that she was directing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to begin the environmental review process for the Interborough Express. According to the Governor’s Office, the new rail line, which would extend the existing Bay Ridge Branch freight line and convert parts of it to passenger use, ultimately connecting up to 17 separate subway lines and to the Long Island Rail Road.

A map of the Interborough Express route through brooklyn and queens
A map of the Interborough Express route (Courtesy the MTA via Twitter)

“It’s time to invest in the bold, cutting-edge infrastructure projects that will make a real difference in the lives of everyday New Yorkers,” said Governor Hochul in a press release. “New Yorkers deserve reliable public transit that connects them from work to home and everywhere in between. The Interborough Express would be a transformational addition to Brooklyn and Queens, cutting down on travel time and helping neighborhoods and communities become cleaner, greener and more equitable.”

While the exact details haven’t been made public yet, the Governor’s Office claimed the new line would pass through “Sunset Park, Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Lots, Brownsville, East New York, Bushwick, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Maspeth, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights,” which together contain about 900,000 residents.

The MTA will now weigh whether it’s best to build light rail, rapid bus service, or some other form of transportation along the Interborough Express path as part of its environmental review, though the governor expects that a rail line would result will be a 40-minute end-to-end commute. According to the MTA, who posted a graphic of the proposed route on Twitter, the Interborough Express would be an express route and could serve up to 1 million riders daily. Freight trains would share the railway and continue to run over the same track.

As mentioned, the idea isn’t new. The Triboro proposal has been around since 1996, but is significantly more ambitious and runs all the way up through the Bronx to Co-op City. Still, the RPA took to Twitter to celebrate as well after the news broke. Any New Yorker can tell you that while getting into or out of Manhattan from any of the surrounding boroughs is easy, traveling between Queens and Brooklyn is notoriously difficult and often requires circuitous trips through Manhattan and back out again.

Renae Reynolds, executive director of transportation nonprofit the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, also lauded the move and sent the following statement to AN:

“We applaud Governor Hochul’s announcement to bring new transit options to Brooklyn and Queens, particularly as the city is experiencing worsening traffic congestion and the effects of climate change. This project will bring high-quality transit to more neighborhoods–including some that are currently transit deserts–and better connect almost a million residents in Brooklyn and Queens with new jobs and opportunities throughout the city.

“The city and state are both working hard to expand access in transit deserts, which is mission-critical for ensuring a more equitable transportation network. We look forward to seeing how the Interborough Express will integrate with the commuter rail and freight network, especially with the MTA’s Penn Station Access project and Port Authority’s Cross Harbor Freight Project. Together, these projects could be a game-changer for regional accessibility, curbing emissions from cars and trucks, and reducing congestion on our crowded streets.”

While Governor Hochul didn’t provide an estimate for when the Interborough Express could come online, she did note that it could be completed much faster than similar projects in the city, such as the Second Avenue Subway extension, because it would be built over existing infrastructure.

You can view the 2022 State of the State Book in its entirety here. Part IV-E, titled Expand Transit Networks and Eliminate Rail Deserts in New York City, further details and outlines the core benefits of the Interborough Express.