Hochul announces 14-mile-long ‘Interborough Express,’ connecting Bay Ridge to Jackson Heights

January 6, 2022

Image courtesy of the MTA

After decades of speculation and discarded plans, better train access could be on the way for New Yorkers living in Queens and Brooklyn. Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday announced in her 2022 State of the State address plans for the development of the “Interborough Express,” a major transit service expansion that would connect the boroughs. The proposed expansion takes the Bay Ridge Branch, a freight rail line that already runs through Brooklyn and Queens, and transforms it into a 14-mile arching track stretching from Bay Ridge to Jackson Heights. The new track would link up to 17 existing subway lines across the two boroughs, as well as provide a connection to the Long Island Rail Road.

The route would run through a number of neighborhoods, including Sunset Park, Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Lots, Brownsville, East New York, Bushwick, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Maspeth, Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights.

In some of these neighborhoods, most of which are considered transit deserts, many residents belong to minority communities or sit beneath the federal poverty line. The new line would ensure more equity in public transportation, providing a more comprehensive transit experience for New Yorkers regardless of their economic background or location.

The new line would provide more efficient public transportation to the nearly 900,000 residents and 260,000 jobs that lie across the route. From start to finish, the Interborough Express would take only 40 minutes, although most riders would only be using it for a small segment of the route.

“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,” Hochul said. “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 news is exciting and will certainly transform transportation in New York City, it is still a colossal project in its early stages. The MTA must first conduct an environmental review process, which Hochul has directed them to begin as soon as possible. However, the fact that the Bay Ridge line already exists means the project will be completed much faster.

“This project would smartly repurpose existing infrastructure to add mass transit and create access to jobs, education, and opportunity for so many residents of Queens and Brooklyn,” MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber said. “I applaud Governor Hochul’s leadership, and we are enthusiastic to work with her, and Federal and State partners to advance the Interborough concept.”

Hochul’s proposition is a variation of a larger plan developed by the Regional Plan Association. The RPA envisions a “Triboro” public transit expansion, connecting the same subway lines throughout Brooklyn and Queens but extending the route through the Bronx to Co-op City. The 24-mile track would not only connect Long Island commuters to the NYC transit system but would also make it easier for commuters coming from the Lower Hudson Valley and Connecticut.

In a statement, RPA President and CEO Tom Wright said, “we are especially pleased to see Governor Hochul propose the Inter-borough Express, which will utilize existing railroad tracks to create new transit services in Brooklyn and Queens – and has long been a priority for RPA.”

In her plan, Hochul also put forward the idea of using the Bay Ridge branch for cross harbor rail freight in conjunction with the passenger route. This addition would accelerate the movement of goods exponentially, and reduce congestion by reducing the number of trucks. Once up and running, the Interborough Express could serve almost 88,000 riders daily and increase yearly public transit trips by more than two million.


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