A long-delayed study into whether it’s possible to reactivate a dormant Queens rail spur is finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel, THE CITY has learned.
The MTA in 2016 committed to a planning and feasibility study looking at the potential use of the Long Island Rail Road’s former Rockaway Beach Branch, a 3.5-mile stretch of railway between
Ozone Park and Rego Park that has been out of service since 1962.
The results of the study — for which the MTA awarded an $864,000 contract to Systra Engineering in October 2017 — were supposed to be made public last year. But MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan told THE CITY the findings now will be released by the end of 2019.
“It’s like a national secret of some sort,” said Rick Horan, director of the Queens RAIL and WAY Task Force, which wants the space used for transit and parkland purposes. “Why is it delayed?”
Part of a larger MTA and Port Authority analysis about Kennedy Airport “one-seat ride” service, the study is examining “the operational and physical feasibility” of having commuter rail or subway trains run on the old Rockaway Beach Branch.
The MTA wouldn’t say what has delayed the process.
“They’ve gone sort of radio silent and it’s very disappointing,” said Phillip Goldfeder, a former Queens assemblymember who pushed for reactivation of the line during his three terms in Albany.
“This is something that is completely underutilized, something which could transform how people in some parts of Queens commute.”
Since Rockaway Beach Branch service ended 57 years ago, concepts for restoring the railway have been floated in different forms. Much of the space under what was once the LIRR’s Ozone Park station is now filled by small auto-related and scrap businesses.
“Seems like a waste of space up there,” said Barry Williams, 34, who works near the elevated structure. “Why not do something with it?”