2008-03-07 / Community

MTA Big: Re-Open LIRR 'White Pot Junction' Line

By Nicholas Briano

MTA Big:Re-Open LIRR 'White Pot Junction'Line

The Whitepot Junction in Rego Park could one day connect Rockaway with Manhattan, cutting commuting time in half.
MTA Executive Director and CEO Elliot Sander said recently that he is open to the possibility of revitalizing the Rockaway Beach line of the LIRR, now called the "White Pot Junction Line," that could cut commuting time from Rockaway to Manhattan by more than 50 percent.

In a recent speech, Sander specifically addressed the idea of enhancing Rockaway's transportation system by reopening a series of tracks in Queens that once played a prominent role in the area's transportation system and could get most residents to Manhattan's Penn Station in less than 45 minutes, as opposed to the present one hour plus ride on the A Train.

"We can also utilize the Rockaway Beach right-of-way to provide new transit access from the Main Line corridor to southern Queens and the Rockaway peninsula," Sander said during his State of the MTA address this week.

Sander referred to White Pot Junction, an area in Rego Park where tracks were once utilized to bring train service directly from Queens to the peninsula.

Historically, the LIRR's Rockaway Beach line began at the Main Line in Rego Park, near 66 Avenue. It continued south through Middle Village, Woodhaven, Ozone Park, Howard Beach, and into Broad Channel, across the trestle to the Rockaways.

Once in the Rockaways, the trains went either east to Far Rockaway to rejoin with the LIRR Main Line, or west along the peninsula until the last stop at Beach 116 Street.

In the 1950's LIRR riders could choose either "the short way," which went through Queens and into Grand Central Station, or the "long way," which went to Far Rockaway and then through Nassau County to Jamaica, where commuters had to change trains to get to Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan.

After a fire destroyed the trestle in the 1950's, the right of way was sold to New York City for the rapid transit system.

At that time, the political decision was to run the A Train through Brooklyn rather than through Queens to service the large, growing community of East New York and surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods. That is when the White Pot Junction line was abandoned.

Democratic District Leader and President of the Rockaway Transit Coalition, Lew Simon, said he is very excited about the railway and adds that it would be a major victory for the community.

"This would be the best gift we ever got," Simon said. "We are going to stay on top of this until it becomes a reality."

According to Simon, the plans are part of the upcoming MTA five-year capital plan.

However, no official announcement has been made by the MTA about specific project details.

Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska chuckled at the thought of the railway, which he says has been under debate for nearly 20 years.

"There are many roadblocks involved," Gaska said. "There are bike paths and homes neighboring the tracks. "I don't know if the people living around there would like that," Gaska continued. "It is an uphill battle the whole way."

Gaska and other residents who travel to Manhattan would welcome a solution to Rockaway's commuter problems that would result in the re-opening of this line. Transportation options available to potential property buyers is a major selling point and is vital to Rockaway's growing population.

"We're growing faster than any other community," Gaska said. "And the biggest worry has always been the commute to Manhattan."

Gaska has not heard any specifics about a plan to reopen the old right-ofway, but believes now is probably not the right time to ask for a project of that magnitude.

Rockaway is already receiving $150 million in subway repairs in the next few years as nearly every station on the peninsula is being overhauled, including the crumbling Rockaway Freeway infrastructure.

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