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Possible Staten Island North Shore Rail

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North Shore rail line viable by 2015

Tuesday, December 09, 2003



Nearly 16,000 passengers a day would use a renovated, seven-stop North Shore rail line by 2015 and would see their commuting times to the ferry cut by more than half, according to a new study that boosts Borough Hall's hope of resurrecting the long-dormant service.

"I'm encouraged that there is a potential for it to work," Borough President James P. Molinaro told members of the Advance Editorial Board yesterday.

The $300,000, yearlong study, funded by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, also found that a light rail train system, similar to that used on the Hudson-Bergen line in New Jersey, would be the best mode of transportation along the 5.1-mile North Shore railway, which has been defunct since 1953.

No property would have to be bought or condemned along the line to put the railroad back in business, Molinaro said. The right of way is currently managed by the city Economic Development Corp. (EDC).

A 40-minute commute from South Avenue to the St. George Ferry Terminal would be reduced to 13 or 14 minutes, the study says, even if heavy rail, diesel trains, streetcars or dedicated-lane "bus rapid transit" modes are used.

The Port Authority will hold a public hearing on the study tonight at 6 p.m. at 126 Stuyvesant Pl., St. George.

The line would run along the North Shore waterfront from St. George to the Arlington Yards. Supporters hope the stops along the way -- including Snug Harbor Cultural Center in Livingston, West Brighton, Port Richmond, Elm Park and Mariners Harbor -- would become magnets for shopping and other businesses.

If the line attracted 16,000 riders a day, it would rival the number who currently use the Staten Island Railway.

But obstacles remain, including the line's estimate $300 million cost. Molinaro said the federal government would have to pitch in to make it happen.

Parts of the existing right of way have deteriorated to the point of nonexistence, and a one-mile stretch of elevated track would also have to be refurbished.

"This suggests there will be some challenges along the way to make it work," said Jose Bustamante, a vice president of URS Corp., the consulting firm that did the study.

Bustamante said repair costs would be the same no matter which mode of transportation is used, but light rail would cost $5.2 million to $5.4 million a year to maintain and operate, less, for example, than $10 million for heavy rail service.

Light rail is also "less intrusive," he said, and would better attract businesses and pedestrians to the area.

However, Bustamante said, Richmond Terrace would eventually have to be widened or narrowed in spots to create a buffer zone with the railway.

Determining the ridership potential is merely the first step toward resurrecting the line.

A more in-depth "alternative analysis study," required in order to make the project eligible for federal funds, will have to be performed.

The cost of that is uncertain, but Molinaro said he would ask the EDC to fund it.

From The Staten Island Advance


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