Ready to roll: City taps engineer to begin environmental review of BQX trolley project

Wired up: New renderings of Mayor DeBlasio’s waterfront streetcar show overhead cables as part of the infrastructure, something the city claims it has “always explored” despite past iterations only depicting rails.
Economic Development Corportation

The city on Wednesday tapped an engineering firm to study the environmental impacts that Mayor DeBlasio’s beloved Brooklyn–Queens trolley may have on the neighborhoods through which it would run, according to the leader of an advocacy group for the so-called Brooklyn Queens Connector.

“Today’s news makes it clear: the BQX is moving forward,” said Jessica Schumer, the daughter of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D–New York). “These steps show meaningful progress for the project — something we’ve been eager to see.”

The city’s Economic Development Corporation awarded Manhattan-based firm VHB a $7.2-million contract to lead the environmental-review process and subsequent Uniform Land Use Review Procedure the trolley project must snake through before any straphangers can hop aboard, according to a rep for the agency.

News of the contract comes months after Hizzoner put the fate of the streetcar in jeopardy last summer, when he announced it would derail without $1 billion in federal funding approved by his political rival President Trump.

DeBlasio’s plea for federal cash — which some Brooklyn pols in Washington, DC, said he should not hold his breath for — followed a city study of the project, which revealed that the streetcar would not entirely pay for itself by revenue generated from new developments along its line, despite initial claims that it would by the consortium of builders that first pitched the scheme.

The adoption of a new financial model came around the same time that the city took other sharp turns in the project, including shrinking its original 14-mile route to 11 miles, changing the path of its Brooklyn tracks so they would skip Dumbo entirely and terminate in Red Hook, not Sunset Park, and increasing its projected $2.5-billion budget to $2.73 billion.

Officials also set a new start date for construction as sometime in 2024 — the year they initially said the trolley would be up and running when DeBlasio announced it back in 2016.

VHB’s engineers will seek input from locals whose transit-hungry, waterfront neighborhoods the streetcar would serve as part of their environmental review. And officials expect the firm to start pushing the plan through the lengthy ulurp process next year, with the hope of starting the service in 2029, according to an Economic Development Corporation spokeswoman.

“The BQX will link long-disconnected neighborhoods and shorten commutes for over half a million New Yorkers who live and work along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront,” said Stephanie Báez. “It is a 21st-century solution to our city’s transit challenges, and we’re excited to move the project forward.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.

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