After much uncertainty and relative quiet, an updated timeline has been announced for the Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX streetcar) that would connect 11 miles of Brooklyn and Queens. The City’s Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Transportation have launched a new website detailing the proposed streetcar, along with previously released and new reports, which would run from Red Hook to Astoria and connect 13 subway lines and 30 bus routes.
The BQX team proposes having at least five community board presentations and a minimum of five workshops this winter, and intend to collect public opinion on the $2.7 billion project via the new website and engage in on-the-ground outreach. There will be public hearings and the collection of comments in May and June, followed by a draft environmental impact statement in the spring of next year, with the final version to be released in fall of 2021 following public comment. Alternative options to the light rail line will reportedly be considered (the website gives the example of a dedicated bus lane). Currently, the city aims to open the line in 2029.
If all goes according to plan, the city will then seek federal funding (as much as $1 billion according to previous reports) and undertake a land-use review, get the necessary approvals, and select designers, contractors, and companies to run the BQX. Funding has been a major hurdle for the streetcar. The federal government has certainly not been generous with infrastructure projects as of late, especially in areas the current administration sees as opposed to it. While it was suggested that Amazon (which was going to receive nearly $3 billion in subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives) might have footed part of the bill when they had planned to build their HQ2 in Long Island City, that option is obviously off the table. Many City Council members have questioned the price tag relative to the streetcar’s projected ridership and the desperate need for upgrades to transit options elsewhere. Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to advocate for the project, however.