2006-06-16 / Front Page

Railroad Bridge A Rush-Hour Nuisance?

By Brian Magoolaghan

Rockaway Park Shuttle crosses over the Beach Channel Railroad Bridge.
Rockaway Park Shuttle crosses over the Beach Channel Railroad Bridge. In a bid to reduce delays for commuters riding the A subway line, the U.S. Coast Guard is considering a proposal to eliminate rush-hour openings of the Beach Channel Railroad Bridge.

The proposed rule change would prevent the bridge from opening to boat traffic in Jamaica Bay from 6:45 a.m. to 8:20 a.m. and from 5 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., every Monday through Friday, except on Federal holidays, according to a notice released last week by the Coast Guard.

"The Coast Guard believes this proposed rule, if adopted, would help facilitate commuter rail traffic while continuing to meet the present and anticipated needs of navigation," according to information provided with the notice.

The Coast Guard reviewed bridge logs from June 2002 to May 2004 and found that each month there were five to 24 openings during the morning commute and three to 12 openings during the evening commute. It also conducted a test-run of the plan it's proposing from December 2005 to February 2006 and said it "received no complaints or comments."

Daniel Kenny, a Rockaway Beach resident who, like many others, commutes to work in Manhattan on the A Train, said he supports the proposal. "It's nice to see that someone is thinking about Rockaway commuters," he said. Kenny experiences a delay of 15 to 45-minutes, caused by a bridge opening, about once a month, he told The Wave. He first expressed frustration with the delays to this newspaper about two years ago.

When closed, the swing-style bridge connecting Rockaway and Broad Channel has a clearance of 26 to 31 feet, which varies according to the tide. Currently, sailboats, barges and other ships close to 26 feet or taller can radio or signal the bridge attendant and request an opening at any time. The attendant, who monitors subway traffic and has discretion over when to open the span, advises the captain when an opening is possible. Typically, a request for an opening is honored in five to 15 minutes.

Bridge openings shut down A Train service in the immediate area and trigger backups along the line in both directions.

"I've been backed up to Rockaway Boulevard," said Kenny, who suggested extending the evening ban on openings until at least 7 p.m.

Still, some don't think the periodic interruptions warrant a change in the regulations.

"It's never been a problem before," said Nick Rivara, who owns the Seaway Marine Corp, a boatyard east of the bridge, in Arverne. Rivara said that barges carrying rocks and oil could be affected because their travels are dictated by the tides in the waterways in the New York City area, which change every day.

Barge operators "don't just jump in the boat and say, 'Let's tow this 400-ton rock barge to Jamaica Bay,'" said Rivara. "They have to work with the tides."

The Quadrozzi Concrete Corporation, which is near Seaway Marine and is routinely serviced by barges, did not return a call seeking comment.

The Coast Guard is accepting comments until July 24, 2006. Mail them to: Commander (dpb), First Coast Guard District Bridge Branch, One South Street, Battery Park Building, New York, New York 10004.

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