Thursday, October 11, 2012

Staten Island still seeks (HB)LRT

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New York City's "forgotten borough," Staten Island, appears not to have forgotten or abandoned its desire to extend Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit (HBLRT) across the New Jersey-New York border and into the borough itself.

The Staten Island Economic Development Corp. (SIEDC) has reiterated its belief in "West Shore Light Rail" in its "Opportunity Staten Island" magazine, according to the Staten Island Advance. The stance mirrors that of several influential Staten Island political figures, both at the city and state level, which has solidified in the past few years.

SIEDC envisions a 13.1-mile extension of HBLRT from 8th Street Station in Bayonne, N.J., across the Bayonne Bridge (to be retrofitted and lifted to fit post-Panamax ships on the Kill Van Kull), and roughly paralleling New York State Route 440 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway, the Staten Island Expressway, West Shore Expressway southbound, terminating in Richmond Valley.

Nine stations are proposed, with the one at Richmond Valley linking with the existing MTA Staten Island Railway service, which serves Staten Island's eastern shore.

Though SIEDC brands the effort as "West Shore Light Rail" to emphasize its local benefits, the group is clearly intent on extending HBLRT into a bistate operation offering borough residents better access to New Jersey points and especially to downtown and Midtown Manhattan.

"The HBLRT connects to the PATH subway service for points in Downtown and Midtown Manhattan. Residents in this area of Staten Island now face long and unreliable travel options to Manhattan and other points outside of Staten Island, and also contend with significant traffic congestion on Staten Island itself," the group notes on its website.

SIEDC faces not just fiscal constraints and competition for capital project dollars in New York State, but also an apparent institutional reluctance by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to commit to light rail transit, according to numerous rail observers in the New York metropolitan area.