Gov. Hochul wants MTA to pursue Interborough Express concept

Jan. 6, 2022
The proposal calls for a rail connection for Queens and Brooklyn residents that would improve mobility into Manhattan, as well as around the surrounding communities.

A proposed project to utilize existing rail right-of-way to provide a passenger rail connection for residents in Brooklyn and Queens will begin the environmental review process.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) will begin the process after New York Gov. Kathy Hochul included the project as part of her 2022 State of the State address.

The Bay Ridge Branch is owned by Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), but hosts freight traffic under an agreement with the New York & Atlantic Railway. The 14-mile Interborough Express would connect Sunset Park, Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Lots, Brownsville, East New York, Bushwick, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Maspeth, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, which the governor’s office describes as ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods.

"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," Gov. 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."

The communities are not currently served by rail transit and with 57 percent of Brooklyn households and 36 percent of Queens households not owning cars, there are more than 100,000 daily trips made in the area on buses. The governor’s office says a rail connection would provide end-to-end travel times of less than 40 minutes providing “significant time savings for interborough Brooklyn and Queens trips compared with existing transit options.”

The governor’s office explains subway lines in the neighborhoods are oriented to move riders to Manhattan, making neighborhood to neighborhood crossings slow and tedious. The project would create better links for travel to and from Manhattan by connecting communities with up to 17 subway and LIRR, as well as key connections among neighborhoods, across boroughs and opening up new opportunities for reverse commuting into Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

"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," said MTA Acting Chair and CEO Janno Lieber. "I applaud Governor Hochul's leadership, and we are enthusiastic to work with her and federal and state partners to advance the Interborough concept."

Additionally, Gov. Hochul directed the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to complete an environmental review for the Cross Harbor Rail Freight Tunnel as the existing Bay Ridge Branch corridor can service cross harbor rail freight and would dramatically reduce truck congestion regionally and expand goods movement facilities, thereby fortifying supply chains still struggling to recover from the pandemic.

The governor’s office says transportation planners believe that cross harbor rail freight and passenger service on the Interborough Express can work together in concert, which could be a game-changer for the region.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Editor in Chief

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the magazine’s editorial direction and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.