more than a decade, New York City and State officials
have identified improved access to the region's airports
and Long Island as an element critical to the long-term
economic vitality of Lower Manhattan. Following the
September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center,
both Governor George Pataki and Mayor Michael Bloomberg
renewed their support for airport access and named it
as a key component of the downtown rebuilding effort.
Bloomberg detailed his commitment to an airport link
in his Vision
for 21st Century Lower Manhattan.
In September 2003, Pataki called for a multi-agency team to research and identify practical options for a rail link connecting Lower Manhattan to Long Island and John F. Kennedy International Airport. By February 2004, officials from City Hall, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC), the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ) released the results of the study, offering four different options for the proposed rail link.
According to transportation officials, the four selected designs were the most feasible of the alternatives examined since the study was launched in September 2003. All relied on using part of the Long Island Rail Road between the Jamaica and Atlantic terminals as a means to extend the JFK AirTrain to downtown Brooklyn. However, the plans differed in their proposals for the leg connecting Brooklyn's Atlantic station with downtown Manhattan, offering the following four alternatives:
- "New Tunnel" -- This option would create a new tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan beneath the East River.
- "Montague Tunnel" -- Using the Montague Street Tunnel below the East River, which is currently used by the M and N/R subway lines, this option would require new tunneling in Brooklyn.
- "Cranberry Tunnel" -- This option would also require new tunneling in Brooklyn and would connect to the Cranberry Street Tunnel under the East River, now used by the A/C subway line.
- "Montague and Cranberry Tunnel Combination" -- Both the Cranberry and Montague Street Tunnels would be used to link Lower Manhattan to the Atlantic station for this option, and new Brooklyn tunneling also might be needed.
Once in Manhattan, the rail line would stop at the proposed Fulton Street Transit Center or the World Trade Center's transportation hub. (Those two terminals will be connected by an underground pedestrian walkway.)
Phase II: The Feasibility Study
After the announcement of the four finalists in February 2004, the LMDC, Port Authority, MTA, and New York City Economic Development Corporation launched the next phase of the study, examining the four options in detail to determine the feasibility of each.
Funded by the Port Authority as part of the lease agreement it signed with the city to operate JFK and LaGuardia Airports, the multi-faceted $90 million study involved gathering information on potential ridership, environmental impact, construction costs, station locations, timing, and alignment between different rail systems. As part of the study, transportation and rebuilding officials also held a series of community meetings to collect public feedback about the proposed service.
In May 2004, Pataki announced the results of the coordinated study, recommending that the best approach would be to build a new tunnel under the East River between Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, creating direct service from the World Trade Center to the Long Island Rail Road’s Jamaica Station. Once the tunnel was constructed, the rail line could utilize the existing Montague Tunnel to complete the link.
Phase III: Alternatives Analysis
The project has now entered the alternatives analysis phase, in which all reasonable rail and non-rail alternatives will be evaluated. Drawing upon the above-mentioned feasibility study, as well as other previous planning studies, this final analysis will consider the various rail options identified to date as well as a range of non-rail alternatives. Potential non-rail alternatives could include express bus and bus rapid transit options, ferry services, and highway improvements. Additional rail and non-rail modal options will be solicited from the public during the scoping phase of the project, and a no-build alternative will also be considered.
The alternative analysis stage is expected to be completed in spring 2006, at which point the project team will begin to prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). The DEIS is scheduled to be distributed for public review in January 2007, and the start of Final EIS preparation has been slated for March 2007.
To obtain additional information about this project, please visit the MTA website.