The MTA is doing a $1 million study to possibly revive the Long Island Rail Road Bay Ridge Branch for passenger service, which hasn’t been there since 1924. Currently, much of this line is a freight railroad with a single track that runs from the Upper New York Bay waterfront at 65th Street with a connection to the Brooklyn Army Terminal east and northeast through such neighborhoods as Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, Midwood, Flatbush, East New York, Ridgewood and Glendale into the MTA’s Fresh Pond Yards facility. From there, CSX Railroad runs another freight line, the NY Connecting Railroad, north through Glendale, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights and Astoria across the Hell Gate Bridge to the Oak Point Yards in the Bronx.
The MTA proposes to reactivate the Brooklyn and Queens legs of the route (which was also considered for the abandoned Cross Brooklyn Expressway project), creating a new “crosstown” passenger line that would not go to Manhattan but cross over a dozen existing subway routes, offering transfers to Manhattan-bound lines. Since the new route is in the preliminary stages of preparation, straphangers shouldn’t expect any trains to be running, if they run at all, until the 2030s at the earliest, and that would likely be only for the Brooklyn leg. A Queens Phase II would likely open later than that. When that happens, the feasibility of crossing the Hell Gate Bridge (or its replacement; the bridge opened in 1917) would likely be considered. Remember, all that is speculation on my part.
The Bay Ridge Branch would combine passenger and freight operations and would take the form of heavy rail (a subway or surface way); light rail, like the proposed BQX project; or even an express busway. It would be known as the Triboro BX line at its furthest extent into the Bronx. As the subway blogger and mapmaker who calls himself Vanshnookenraggen notes, the line has ben bandied around since 1996.
Though there are several rights-of-way ripe for the plucking to allow greater transit outreach to several underserved neighborhoods (such as the ruined LIRR Rockaway Branch) one unwritten rule of New York’s transit agencies over the years has been “taken out of service, never put back in.” This rule even extends to line identifiers — the H, once an IND shuttle to the Rockaway peninsula, the K — once the Eighth Avenue local (now the C) and even the #8 train (once the IRT Bronx Third Avenue el) have never been used again! (OK: The H was briefly brought back as a post-Sandy shuttle from Broad Channel to the Rockaways.)
The East New York transit interchange — which connects the 8th Avenue – Fulton Street line (A, C) with the Broadway line (J) and Canarsie (L) — could be even better if the old Bay Ridge tracks could be activated for passenger service. But, even in times when the MTA is not millions in debt, it would never revive the line and so the NYA will likely have unlimited dominance for years to come. But railfans can dream. There was a time when trains were actually built to the middle of nowhere because real estate developers were sure to enter any area with good mass transit. The title card shows the still-existent East New York platform of the Bay Ridge LIRR branch from the collection of LIRR historian Ron Ziel. Can it see service again after a century? We shall see.