Let the Freight Trains Roll Under New York Harbor

November 14, 2008 at 10:35 pm Leave a comment

Imagine a railroad tunnel under New York Harbor ferrying freight trains from Jersey City to Brooklyn, and a bustling rail yard for that commerce at 65th Street at the Sunset Park-Bay Ridge borderline. That equals far fewer trucks on our roads, better and healthier air quality, and a link to the nation’s rail freight system.

Making that long-imagined project, fueled by Congressman Jerrold Nadler’s plans and study funds, another step closer to reality is the Port Authority of NY-NJ (PA), which announced on Thursday that it will start a full Environmental Impact Statement public process. This was launched as meeting participants sought solutions spurred by the prediction that freight movements might balloon by 70 percent before 2030 in the metropolitan area.

The ambitious project was identified as a major regional priority 15 years ago. Nadler, along with Community Board Seven and elected officials representing Sunset Park, has promoted it as a key component of Southwest Brooklyn waterfront revitalization, part of its “197-A Plan,” a City Charter provision for local economic development.

“Our efforts to move freight by barge and rail in this extremely congested urban region is just common sense. Freight movement is a critical issue and one that’s taken a back seat to other, more high-profile projects for too long,” said PA Executive Director Chris Ward announcing the EIS process’s launch.

He spoke at Thursday’s meeting of elected officials, stakeholders and the state and city’s transportation commissioners on how best to move “billions of dollars of freight” more efficiently throughout the region. The EIS announcement represents a resumption of the environmental process, which was on hold for three years. The NYC Economic Development Corp. conducted a Draft EIS on the “Cross Harbor Rail Freight Double Tunnel” in 2005.

Work on the project was then suspended. Then, this past August, the sponsorship for the EIS was officially transferred from the EDC to the PA, which said that it expects to complete the study by the end of 2010. That is great news for Nadler and tunnel advocates, of which they are many in Brooklyn, and is timed for the next major federal transportation bill’s reauthorization.
Nadler ‘Thrilled’
“I am thrilled that this essential project is moving forward,” said a happy Congressman Nadler (Dem-Manhattan/Brooklyn), then noting how it might stimulate an economy in crisis and help insure a thriving economic climate in years to come.

“This is not simply an important transportation proposal,” Nadler said, “but would be a huge boon to our region’s economy, to our workforce, to our environment, and to our connection to the rest of the nation and the world.”

The DEC’s Draft EIS in 2005 listed several benefits of a twin tunnel. Among those are a $15.4 billion overall benefit to the region, a savings of 1.5 billion BTU of energy, a reduction of five percent in congestion and traffic, a $1.6 billion increase in regional personal income, and a significant reduction in greenhouse gases. The Sierra Club’s NYC Transportation Committee praised its findings.

Current rail freight is delivered by rail barges from Bayonne to Sunset Park’s 65th Street Railyard – part of the New York and Atlantic freight line, leased from the Long Island Rail Road – or the 51st Street terminal. Freight also traverses Hudson at Albany by the CSX rail freight line. That all accounts for less than three percent of the city’s freight –nearly all freight now is shipped by trucks, which clogs roads and spews carbon emissions.
Infrastructure Improvements Help Tunnel Plan
The PA is increasing its rail freight capacity with its recent acquisition of the NY-NJ Rail Corporation and its Greenville Yard shoreline space in Jersey City. It also benefits from the new Staten Island Rail Link, completed over a year ago.

A tunnel’s impact has been compared by its supporters, which include Borough President Marty Markowitz and Howard Golden before him, to the impact of the building of the Erie Canal in the 19th Century.

It enjoys the support of Brooklyn elected officials, including those representing Sunset Park such as Nadler’s colleague, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez, Assemblyman Felix Ortiz and State Senator Velmanette Montgomery.

At Thursday’s meeting Nadler, praising the PA and tunnel supporters, said, “I believe that, with the impressive partnership assembled today, we are indeed moving closer to realizing the crucial goal of constructing a Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel.”

by Harold Egeln
Brooklyn Daily Eagle


Entry filed under: Brooklyn, Dive In, Maritime. Tags: , , , , , , .

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