Friday, September 10, 2010

Study launched for Brooklyn streetcar plan

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New York City’s Department of Transportation and Rep. Nydia Velazquez  (D-N.Y.) announced late Thursday a $295,000 study to evaluate a longstanding proposal to reintroduce streetcar service in Brooklyn, specifically designed to bolster transportation in Red Hook district, a neighborhood now enjoying an economic resurgence.

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San Francisco-based URS Corp. will conduct a five-month evaluation of the proposed route, currently envisioned to link an Ikea store in Red Hook with either Borough Hall or to the Brooklyn Bridge waterfront. Funding comes from a federal grant Rep. Velazquez helped secure in 2005.

“A streetcar system in Red Hook has the potential to reconnect this neighborhood with the rest of the city and greatly improve transit options for residents,” Velazquez said. NYCDOT plans to meet with local groups to explore how a streetcar route would impact the neighborhood.

The project has been delayed for numerous reasons for decades, despite its being championed by the Brooklyn Historic Railway Association, which at one point received approval to move ahead with portions of the project. Several industry observers—and even a few NYCDOT staffers interviewed by Railway Age in recent years (though not for attribution)—have suggested that NYCDOT has been hostile to streetcar restoration in general.

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Some, however, note that the city’s current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, has been less averse to exploring streetcar options. And in a statement Thursday, NYCDOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said, “Once ubiquitous in New York City's streetscape, streetcars remain part of the transportation mix in cities from Toronto to Melbourne, and we need to consider all options toimprove transit access in underserved neighborhoods like Red Hook.”

Rep. Velazquez reportedly has requested $10 million in funds for construction of a Red Hook route, with funding currently being considered by the House.