Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Staten Island LRT study is upbeat

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Systra Consulting Inc. has released some details of its ongoing study for light rail transit on Staten Island, in advance of the study’s completion, expected at the end of April. Systra is conducting the study on behalf of the Staten Island Economic Development Corp., which has been vociferous in its support for LRT, arguing that New York City's transit plans once again have overlooked "the Forgotten Borough."

At present, the plan calls for extending New Jersey Transit’s Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit (HBLRT) system south across the Bayonne Bridge (and the New Jersey-New York border). A first phase stretching roughly three miles would link the Elm Park and Bloomfield neighborhoods, serving an estimated 9,900 riders per day with service at 10-minute frequencies. Of those initial riders, Systra found that roughly 1,500 would travel within the borough itself. The initial segment, with four stations, would cost an estimated $1.2 billion.

Extensions beyond the first phase would route LRT south in the median of the West Shore Expressway to Richmond Valley, at the southern tip of the island, where the LRT route could connect to the Staten Island Railway, which runs along the borough’s eastern shoreline and to the Staten Island Ferry. Estimate cost for the full route, about nine miles in length, is $1.8 billion.

Plans to replace the current Bayonne Bridge with a new structure make any link with HBLRT uncertain; the bridge (and replacement project)  is managed by the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. “The Bayonne Bridge will be a problem because there's no definite replacement plan yet," said Joseph Carroll, district manager of Community Board 1.

New York’s MetropolitanTransportation Authority currently operates X89 bus service linking Staten Island and Manhattan via New Jersey, with the route providing transfers to and from HBLRT. HBLRT currently carries roughly 45,000 riders each weekday.

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