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BQX Project Advances as City Hires Firm to Conduct Key Study Before Public Review

The proposed BQX as envisioned in Astoria (EDC)

Feb. 6, 2019 By Nathaly Pesantez

The controversial Brooklyn Queens Connector (BQX) project is heading into another phase in its proposed development after the city tapped a firm to carry out an essential study before the streetcar plan’s potential implementation.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation awarded VHB, an engineering and consulting firm, with a $7.25 million contract today to conduct the environmental review process for the planned 11-mile rail that would span from Astoria to Red Hook, according to the EDC.

“The BQX will link long-disconnected neighborhoods and shorten commutes for over half a million New Yorkers who live and work along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront,” an EDC spokesperson said. “It is a 21st century solution to our city’s transit challenges and we’re excited to move the project forward.”

The environmental review, expected to take a year and a half, is a critical step that will ultimately determine what impacts the proposed light rail has on a broad variety of fronts including infrastructure, traffic, neighborhood character and beyond. The public can also help single out which areas the review should address.

Once the findings of the study are spelled out, another step known as the Uniform Land Review Process, or ULURP, can start. The months-long public review process will see the project reviewed by community boards and borough presidents before reaching the City Council for a vote.

Friends of the BQX, the non-profit rallying support for the project, said the contract award “marks the most significant step forward to date” for the project and “a clear commitment from the de Blasio administration.”

“As the city grapples with a transit crisis, now is the moment for it to take control of its mass transit destiny and expand access wherever it can” said Jessica Schumer, executive director of the non-profit, in a statement. “The BQX is an essential first step and will provide a model for future City-run light rail lines in transit deserts across the city.”

The news comes about five months after the city unveiled an updated plan for the BQX that saw a revised, shorter route and a higher price tag for the project. Its groundbreaking was also pushed from 2019 to 2024.

The prior plan, released in 2016, called for a 16-mile route that stretched to Sunset Park, and would cost $2.5 billion to construct, about $2.5 million less than its current estimated cost.

The city also insisted that no other funding would be required for the project at the time, but changed course in its new design when it said it would seek federal funding for the development.

The reworked design was also released after the city concluded a feasibility study that saw months of delays along the way, and which was scrutinized after a leaked memo questioned the streetcar’s financial viability.

Despite critics voicing concerns over many facets of the project—including the trolley’s potential gentrifying effects and the value of creating a new transit system on a waterfront corridor with existing connections—and the widespread belief that the project will not become a reality, given its changes and delays, the administration said it has stood firm in its efforts to bring the BQX about.

“For some reason, everybody thinks we are not serious but we have always been serious, said Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen to the Wall Street Journal. “The mayor wouldn’t have re-endorsed and announced we were moving forward if we weren’t moving forward.”

The public review process for the project, according to the city, is anticipated to kick off in 2020. Construction is expected to start in 2024 if approvals are obtained, with work to be completed in 2029.

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24 Comments

Butter weeda and 9 trey

Ah yes where is the money coming for a trolley that will be the city’s new money pit?? Yes u got from pensioners that earned a dignified pension from the City of nowhere. The first billion isn’t enough? take another billion. Yet the city and the state is claiming poverty

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Know Your History! Don't Repeat Your Mistakes!

Really? Different you say… Then explain the accidents that took place in 2018 and recently in 2019! Accidents reported in Portland, Cincinnati, Milwaukee, Seattle… A cyclist killed involving an accident with a streetcar…
https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/Cyclist-Killed-After-Getting-Stuck-in-DC-Streetcar-Rail-486473711.html
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=TIc0AMiXsic
https://www.kvrr.com/2018/11/08/victim-in-main-street-car-crash-identified/

https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/washington/articles/2018-03-31/seattle-streetcar-project-halted-investigation-started
As for your newer streetcar theory please read:
https://www.streetcar.org/newest-pcc-streetcar-collides-truck/.

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DB

I could pick apart all your articles if I had the time (like how one of them has nothing to do with a streetcar) but the important thing to remember is that there will be streetcar accidents just like there are with any other kind of public transportation.

MTA buses were involved in 21,000 collisions over the course of 3 years. Accidents clearly happen. https://nypost.com/2018/03/03/mta-buses-crashed-more-than-21k-times-in-just-3-years/

The best article I could find is based on Toronto, which has the largest North American streetcar system. And yes, according to this you are right – streetcars result in more incidents than buses. But this doesn’t say it’s the streetcars’ fault – many of these incidents took place in the lanes specifically created for streetcars so pedestrians and cyclists were in a place they shouldn’t be.
https://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2018/06/25/streetcars-account-for-half-of-deadly-ttc-collisions-with-pedestrians-cyclists.html

But streetcars aren’t catching fire and flipping over like in your grandma’s days. You’re acting like these will be death machines on wheels when really they wouldn’t be that much different than current forms of public transportation. And if people aren’t idiots and get in the way of it then we’ll be fine, but this is NYC after all, a city full of idiots.

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GXO

Streetcars and pizzerias are not compatible. I think mobile welcome mats that can transport people in large numbers would benefit the vast Swedish population in question.

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SmoothOperator46

It won’t. However, money being used on this streetcar would be better used on other transit projects, like the former LIRR line.

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your_neighbor

Many better uses for these funds to actually improve transit for more people.
Another boondoggle – its just taxpayer money anyway.

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Curlicue58

They can even complete the work on the 7 line. Why don’t they use the money for those repairs and at stations both on that line and in Astoria. This is an unessary expenditure!

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DB

I really like streetcars, they look and feel nicer than buses and the fact that it is connected to a set track makes it feel like it’s more consistent than buses. I’ve ridden on streetcars in Toronto, France, Amsterdam, Belgium and other areas and it really does feel smoother and more connected than buses.

But a lot of that really has to do with feelings and not facts. If streetcars cost 3x as much as buses then it probably makes more sense to improve existing infrastructure than build something new. Though the introduction of streetcars along this route should increase ridership as it is a much more appealing form of transit than buses, even if it runs along similar routes. So maybe people’s feelings do have a lot to do with the benefits of the streetcar.

The other thing to consider is the amount of people that will be traveling around LIC in the next 10 years because of Amazon. Creating another form of transit just helps alleviate the problem a bit.

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JenL

Another benefit to streetcars is that they are non-polluting and quiet. That makes a lot more sense than busses, especially when the tracks will be close to residential buildings, like they will probably be here. They are also far less affected by traffic problems and would tend to be more reliable than busses.

It would make a lot of senses to progressively replace a number of bus lines through NYC. Bloomberg first raised that idea, but the cross town street car line on 34th Street hasn’t happened. The MTA is a mess, and the bus system has its own disfunction that may be even worse than the subway. We should really think of expanding streetcars and BQX may just be the first.

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Hugh Jasche

More wasteful spending. This administration is spending like sailors on leave. Disgraceful

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voteoutdebozo

BQX is such a stupid idea. Why waste millions of dollars on something that will go only 5mph considering that most of the streets are clogged with double parked ubers and traffic. An above ground street car won’t work in NYC. Instead of throwing money away to friends of developers they should spend that to fix the current subways and buses.

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JenL

Streetcar tracks, properly done, would not encounter car traffic. They are less likely to be impacted by delays. Work great in other cities and are quieter and less polluting. Far less expensive than underground subways, and more reliable than busses – streetcars and BQX are the future.

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VelvetKnight

And how many people have been killed by the cars and buses that replaced them?

Streetcars weren’t torn out because they didn’t work. There was an extended campaign of propaganda and buyouts from the auto and oil companies that both killed those systems and got taxpayers to fund a massive highway system that benefitted their products.

Now we’re seeing the results of that change. Massive pollution, and more space given to cars than pedestrians, especially places like Manhattan where an emphasis on cars is insanity. People have gotten so used to the car monopoly on our streets that any mention of bike lanes or pedestrian plazas results in war. There were some good things about expanding the car network, but some bad too. It’s time for some changes, and to bring back aspects of the past that worked better.

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