NYS Funds Can Fund Rail Study
Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has stepped up his efforts to have the abandoned Rockaway Beach Rail Line completely restored by reaching out last week to the NYS Department of Transportation requesting the state redirect $29 million in unused federal appropriations to fund a study for the restoration of the Rockaway Beach Rail Line.
In August, the White House announced that they would free up $473 million in unspent appropriations to allow states to spend the money on transportation projects. The money comes from congressional projects that were written into four spending bills from 2003 to 2006. However, the money was never spent — either because of an error in writing the bill, because the project could be completed without it, or because the earmark wasn’t big enough.
“What better use of abandoned federal dollars than for the restoration of an abandoned rail line,” said Goldfeder. “Immediate investment in this important transportation project will create thousands of jobs, improve public transportation options for all Queens residents and give our economy the boost that we so desperately need.”
NYSDOT must identify the projects for which they plan to use the funds by October 1, and must obligate them by December 31, 2012, in order to prevent funds from being reallocated. This puts more than $29 million in unobligated Highway funds for New York State at risk of being lost if immediate action is not taken to move these important projects across the state forward. These funds have been awarded to New York State to complete much-needed highway transportation projects and put New Yorkers back to work building vital infrastructure.
“Increasing public transportation options and improving the infrastructure for Southern Queens and Rockaway will prepare our neighborhoods for future growth,” said Goldfeder. “Restoration of the abandoned rail line as an efficient, environmentally friendly transportation alternative to the current subway lines would be welcomed news to the residents of Queens, who currently suffer with long commutes, congested roadways and severely limited public transportation.”
Assemblyman Goldfeder has been a staunch advocate for the complete restoration of the Rockaway Beach rail line. In June he started a petition that garnered more than 3,000 signatures from residents all across Queens. Most recently, Goldfeder sent a letter to Governor Cuomo requesting the possibility of allocating funding from the federal Surface Transportation Reauthorization to jumpstart the Rockaway Beach Rail Line restoration project. The funding for the project would be provided by the flexible discretionary funds given to New York State under the new expansion of the surface transportation reauthorization federal legislation (MAP-21). The new surface transportation reauthorization legislation will provide New York State with $1.2 billion per year of the formula funds. Moreover, New York State’s highway and transit programs present eligibility for federal discretionary funds.
Built at the turn of the century, the Rockaway Beach Rail Line, also known as White Pot Junction, was owned and operated by the Long Island Rail Road. Strategically placed within a major network of trains throughout New York City, the rail line provided residents with safe, affordable and expedient access to other parts of Queens and the rest of the city. Despite limited transportation options, Queens has recently seen a large population and construction boom. The opening of the Resorts World Casino at the Aqueduct Racetrack, the renaissance of the Rockaway Peninsula as a tourist haven and the growing population, all indicate that the restoration of this rail line is needed now more than ever, added Goldfeder.