Aug. 30, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
The city has revealed an updated plan for its controversial Brooklyn Queens Connector, signaling that the street car system planned to run along some waterfront neighborhoods of the two boroughs will be moving forward.
The revised project, outlined in the Economic Development Corporation’s conceptual design report released today, reduces the length of the route by five miles and notably eliminates Sunset Park. The route now goes from Astoria to Red Hook and is 11 miles.
The updated plan also nails down the streetcar’s pathway, and proposes a new bridge between Queens and Brooklyn for the system to run through.
The bridge, with an approximate span of 1,700 feet, would go over Newtown Creek and connect Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint to Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City.
The bridge would include a drawbridge span, and would also accommodate for cyclists and pedestrians.
The BQX would have to run directly through Manhattan Avenue Park in Greenpoint, the small plaza at the tip of the avenue’s cul-de-sac. Neighboring sites by the proposed bridge approaches include the Greenpoint Manufacturing and Design Center and the LIRR rail yard in Long Island City.
The city, however, does not anticipate any issues with private property owners nearby.
“Both approaches to the creek are on public right-of-way so no property acquisitions are expected for this bridge,” part of the report reads.
The city’s last BQX report was issued in 2016, where it outlined a series of proposed routes and pros and cons for each. The streetcar, for example, was mainly geared for a pathway over the Pulaski Bridge and into McGuinness Boulevard.
Now, after running through the proposed bridge, the streetcar would go through Manhattan Avenue down to Greenpoint Avenue, and then turn onto Franklin Street and Baker Street before turning to Berry Street.
In Williamsburg, the route will continue through Berry Street and go under the Williamsburg Bridge before turning on Division Avenue. From there, the route will turn on Kent Avenue and continue going south to the Red Hook and Gowanus areas.
The street car will be stopping at a total of seven places between Greenpoint and Williamsburg.
The city says the route in Greenpoint will offer additional capacity than currently available with just the G train and several bus lines. Although the route appears to have the same overlay as the G train, the city says the BQX stops are closer together, which could enhance access and expand mobility options.
In addition, the Berry Street stretch will give BQX priority by prohibiting through traffic. Vehicular traffic will be limited to short trips of about three to five blocks meant for pick ups, drop offs, some parking, and commercial deliveries.
A layout of the proposed route for Berry Street, for instance, shows a shared use lane for the BQX and other vehicles.
The project not only includes a new route, but also lays out updated project costs and timelines. The BQX is now estimated to cost $2.73 billion, up from the $2.5 million given two years ago. Furthermore, the city is expecting construction to begin in 2024, rather than 2019, with the project wrapping up in 2029.
The city will also seek federal funding for the project, a departure from its initial plan to have the streetcar fund itself through value capture, or the money collected from increased property values along the route.
The fare for the BQX is still expected to be pegged to the bus and subway, with the streetcar running every 5 minutes in peak hours and extending to every 20 minutes during late night hours. Service during overnight hours, however, is still being worked out.
The EDC’s new report comes as the city wrapped up its delayed two-year feasibility study for the project. The project’s feasibility has been a subject of much scrutiny since last year, after a leaked internal memo indicated the streetcar’s financial viability was in doubt.
“The Brooklyn-Queens waterfront has experienced incredible growth. Now it’s time for our transit system to catch up,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in a statement. “The BQX is one of the biggest, most ambitious projects in a generation. It will be a challenge, but New York City is taking it on.”
With the green-lighted BQX project, the city said the environmental impact study process will begin this winter, with the public review process known as ULURP to kick off in 2020.
For the full plan, click here.