De Blasio's streetcar tweak shortens line, adds to cost

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New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said his administration will proceed with a $2.73 billion streetcar project for Brooklyn and Queens, with an environmental review to begin this winter.

His latest proposal for the so-called BQX features a shorter route, a higher cost and a later starting date. De Blasio expects construction to begin in 2024 with the line to open in 2029.

De Blasio’s announcement follows a two-year feasibility study and marks the latest move to diversify mass transit in the region. The city would manage the streetcar separately from the state-run Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates subways and buses within the five boroughs.

“The Brooklyn-Queens waterfront has experienced incredible growth. Now it's time for our transit system to catch up,” de Blasio said Thursday.

The truncated route eliminates Brooklyn’s Sunset Park, with Red Hook the new terminus in that borough. The north-south route will include Brooklyn's downtown, the Navy Yard, Williamsburg and Greenpoint, while continuing in Queens to Long Island City and Astoria.

“The BQX has the potential to be an integral part of our city’s expanding transportation system,” said city transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “It will complement and connect to our subway and bus system, the NYC ferry, and bike share, while transforming city streets.”

De Blasio cited a $2.5 billion price tag when he announced the project in his 2016 State of the City address. At the time, de Blasio said the city could raise capital through a nascent nonprofit that could issue tax-exempt bonds.

The mayor on Thursday, without references to bonding, said the city would seek federal funding “among other sources.” De Blasio said his administration expects to generate $30 billion in economic impact and roughly $1.4 billion in value capture, or harnessing a percentage of the increase in values of existing and new development along the corridor.

He projects first-year ridership at 50,000 per day. Modeling has indicated that downtown Brooklyn to Greenpoint would be the busiest corridor.

Benefits, according to de Blasio, include connecting mixed-income neighborhoods to jobs and transit hubs; providing reliable and accessible service to “transportation deserts,” including Brooklyn west of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway; and supporting transit-oriented development.

Skeptics have questioned whether the city can realize the kind of tax revenue as it did with the No. 7 subway line extension from Times Square westward to the Hudson Yards complex.

A Uniform Land Use Review Procedure will follow the environmental study, de Blasio said.

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Infrastructure Transportation industry Bill de Blasio Polly Trottenberg City of New York, NY Metropolitan Transportation Authority New York