Monday, October 27, 2014

Port Authority urged to fund Staten Island LRT

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U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), joined by Staten Island Borough President James Oddo, is urging the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey (PA) to fund a proposed West Shore Light Rail project.

The two officials argued that the PA is qualified to do so since the project is in effect a bi-state effort affecting both New York and New Jersey. The LRT project would in essence be an extension of Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR, shown in photo at left), part of New Jersey Transit's rail system, which currently has its southern terminus at 8th Street Station in Bayonne, N.J., just north of Staten Island.

The PA currently is raising the height of the Bayonne Bridge, which connects Bayonne with Staten Island's north shore, in order to accommodate post-Panamax container ships accessing intermodal facilities in Newark and Elizabeth, N.J. The bridge currently contains no plans for LRT, however.

Staten Island officials and residents continue to complain that the "Forgotten Borough" is repeatedly ignored by New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which operates buses, subways, and regional rail but has no LRT operations. MTA's most recent five-year capital program, currently in flux, offers no plans for any LRT in Staten Island.

"With one some of the worst congestion and longest travel times, it's clear that Staten Islanders need additional transportation options, and that's why we need the Port Authority to step up and to make sure the West Shore Light Rail project stays on track," said Sen. Schumer in a statement issued Oct. 22, 2014.

The Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) launched its West Shore Light Rail efforts roughly a decade ago, eyeing a 13-mile route down Staten Island's west side that, in both word and deed, equals a southern leg of the existing HBLR. Such a route would allow Staten Island residents access to points in Jersey City, a growing business center, as well as PATH transfers to and from both downtown and Midtown Manhattan that could meet or beat current travel times using buses or ferries.

Such a route also would support access to Staten Island job opportunities, = DIEDC Vice President Steven Grillo told local media last August. "There is a perfect storm of needs -- 9,000 new jobs are estimated to come to Staten Island over the next four to five years," Grillo said.

Last week a coalition of New Jersey mayors, including leaders from Hudson County communities already served by HBLR, urged New Jersey officials to extend HBLR north by roughly 10 miles into neighboring Bergen County.

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