New York State lawmakers convinced the MTA to spend $4 million to study a proposed Light Rail between Staten Island and New Jersey. Called the West Shore Light Rail and conceived over 10 years ago, it would run the 13 miles between Richmond Valley and Elm Park on Staten Island and then connect to New Jersey over the Bayonne Bridge.
New York State Assemblyman Michael Cusick said, “This is a crucial step forward to alleviating the frustrations Staten Islanders have been facing for years during their commutes.” The $4 million set aside in the MTA’s budget will fund an Alternative Analysis to determine the feasibility of the rail line. An Environmental Impact Statement would still have to be submitted to move the project along.
The Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) first proposed the rail line in 2004 and reignited the campaign in 2014, calling on the state to spend the money for the study. The $2.5 billion streetcar project announced last year, connecting Brooklyn to Queens, also spurred Staten Island officials to appeal to Mayor Bill de Blasio for similar consideration. The Brooklyn Queens Connector will run 16 miles along the East River between Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and Astoria, Queens.
In their letter to Mayor de Blasio, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo and Council members Debi Rose, Steven Matteo, and Joe Borelli said, “You have stated repeatedly that we must ‘reduce our reliance on cars.’ Many Islanders would gladly ditch their vehicles if they had a viable alternative–such as a rail or bus-rapid-transit link that connects the borough’s West and South shores to New Jersey and Manhattan via the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail.”
The SIEDC is also putting together a plan for an aerial gondola along the Bayonne Bridge that would connect Staten Island to New Jersey similar to the Roosevelt Island Tramway. Either way, it seems Staten Island is looking to New Jersey’s existing transportation infrastructure to shorten Islanders’ commuting times into Manhattan despite Mayor de Blasio’s improvements to the borough’s roads and ferry service.