As rail freight expands, an old train line in Brooklyn and Queens could provide congestion relief

Posted On Mon, April 8, 2019 By

Posted On Mon, April 8, 2019 By In Policy, Transportation

Image via Wiki Commons

The New York & Atlantic Railway, a little-known freight line that runs through Brooklyn and Queens, is set to receive a significant investment as part of ongoing strategies to relieve congestion in the city, the New York Times reports. Currently, the city’s rail lines only transport two percent of New York’s cargo, while trucks carry about 90 percent. One rail car can carry the equivalent of four trucks, so they could represent a previously “unsung” key to diverting truck traffic, a major contributor to the city’s ongoing battle with gridlock.

“New York City’s rail infrastructure provides significant untapped capacity, whereas our aging highways are at maximum capacity, which limits our ability to remain globally competitive,” said Ryan White, director of freight initiatives for the Economic Development Corporation, to The Times.

New York & Atlantic operates on a series of freight-only lines in Queens, Brooklyn and eastern Long Island, sharing commuter lines run by the Long Island Rail Road. In 1997 they ran roughly 10,000 cars, a number which has since increased to 30,000. One rail car can carry the equivalent of four tractor-trailer trucks, so those 30,000 cars do the work of 120,000 truck trips.

Deliveries are typically done at night since there are fewer commuter trains then. The cars carry scrap, recyclables, construction materials—and enough flour and beer to give it the nickname of “the pizza-and-beer railroad.”

The loaded cars come from CSX Transportation, one of the nation’s largest freight railroad companies. They travel through the Bronx and into Queens. Once they’ve reached the New York & Atlantic railyard in Glendale, the company takes the cars and distributes the goods to businesses along its route or to rail-to-truck hubs, where goods are transferred to trucks for local deliveries.

The percentage of railcars coming from New Jersey is also set to increase. Since taking over the Cross Harbor Rail Freight Program in 2008, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey has increased the amount of cross-harbor volume from 1,000 rail cars per year to 5,000. That number is limited because there is currently only one barge in use, but the Authority will soon add two new barges, estimating an increase to 25,000 rail cars a year within five years.

As 6sqft reported last year, Mayor de Blasio and the city’s Economic Development Corporation launched Freight NYC, a $100 million plan to overhaul the city’s aging freight distribution systems through strategic investments to modernize maritime and rail assets and create new distribution facilities.

[Via New York Times]

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