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Brooklyn-Queens streetcar changes course, will cost more

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The streetcar is no longer making stops in Sunset Park and Dumbo due to the cost and potential low ridership


Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pet project, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector is changing course. The streetcar will no longer run all the way south to Sunset Park, but instead go to Gowanus. Streetsblog was the first to learn of the planned changes, and the New York Times published all the details on the changes earlier today. In addition to nixing Sunset Park as a stop, the previously all-waterfront route of the streetcar has been altered, and BQX will snake through some of the inner parts of Brooklyn as it makes its way to Queens.

“The Brooklyn-Queens waterfront has experienced incredible growth, now it’s time for our transit system to catch up,” said Mayor de Blasio, in a statement. “The BQX is one of the biggest, most ambitious projects in a generation. It will be a challenge, but New York City is taking it on.”

Streetsblog had some details about the proposed route and they are follows: the streetcar is expected to run along Columbia Street, then turn into Willoughby Street, go north on Ashland Place toward Flushing Avenue, potentially enter Brooklyn Navy Yard at Clinton Avenue and exit at Kent Avenue as it makes its way to Williamsburg. Instead of running along the Pulaski Bridge, the streetcar would then run along a new bridge from Manhattan Avenue in Greenpoint to Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City, then go along 44th Drive and 21st Street onward to its final stop at Astoria Boulevard.

In all, the 11-mile long route will have 26 stops. The plan to move the route away from Dumbo and Sunset Park was largely due to financial and construction constraints, according to the Times. Construction along the old streets of Dumbo would be far too costly, and there wouldn’t be too many people boarding the streetcar in the neighborhood. A lack of commuters along the proposed Sunset Park stretch also factored into the neighborhood’s exclusion. This new proposed route places the streetcar next to subways and buses thereby increasing the likelihood of more commuters using it. The city estimates that 50,000 people will use the service every day in its first year of operation.

The cost of the project has now gone up from $2.5 billion to $2.73 billion, and the construction timeline has also been pushed back to start in 2024 and end sometime in 2029, long after Mayor de Blasio has left office. The city will also need about $1 billion in federal funds to ensure that the project moves forward.

For supporters of the project, today’s announcement will come as a relief. While the project might have shrunk in size, the announcement of the new route means the city is still serious about it. The city will now undertake an environmental impact study this winter, and the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure is expected to get underway in 2020.

“This commitment to moving the BQX forward is a huge win for New Yorkers who have been cut off from transit for too long--including over 40,000 NYCHA residents along the route,” said Jessica Schumer, the executive director of Friends of the BQX, a nonprofit that supports the project. “With the city embroiled in a transit crisis, the BQX will serve as an innovative model for how to build new mass transit sustainably and equitably, while creating new, good paying jobs along the way and making access to those jobs easier.”