NEW YORK CITY — Passenger service will be returning to the New York City rail route now known as the Bay Ridge Branch of the Long Island Rail Road for the first time in 99 years.
Most of the line has been freight-only since 1924 and is currently operated by LIRR’s private freight partner, New York & Atlantic. On January 10, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the route would soon become a light rail line.
The 14-mile line will begin near a junction of several Metropolitan Transportation Authority subway lines near Roosevelt Avenue west of Elmhurst, running south to Brownsville, where it curves westward to Bay Ridge. Most of the route opened in the late 1870s as part of the New York & Manhattan Beach system. The northern portion of the project incorporates part of the CSX Fremont Secondary, originally built by the New York Connecting Railroad, a jointly owned property of the Pennsylvania and New Haven railroads.
Created to open a corridor to Penn Station for New Haven trains, New York Connecting also connected with NY&MB to give New Haven freight a route to the car docks at Bay Ridge. New Haven electrified the entire line in 1927 and ran freight to Bay Ridge with electric locomotives until it was merged into Penn Central at the end of 1968 and diesels took over. Appropriate to that heritage name, Interborough Express will connect to 17 different MTA subway routes and the LIRR.
Hochul said studies of the alternatives (including heavy rail) showed a clear advantage for light rail in terms of cost, operating efficiency and the time it will take to get the new service up and running. The estimated cost of the project is $5.5 billion.
Interborough Express will be the first light rail system operated by MTA. Among the neighborhoods to be served are Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Lots, Brownsville, East New York, Bushwick, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Maspeth, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.