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Light Rail System Needed to Link Staten Island and Jersey, De Blasio Told

By Nicholas Rizzi | February 18, 2016 3:52pm
 Staten Island elected officials called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to add $5 to $7 million to the budget to study the proposed West Shore Light Rail.
Staten Island elected officials called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to add $5 to $7 million to the budget to study the proposed West Shore Light Rail.
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Staten Island Economic Development Corporation

STATEN ISLAND — A light rail system linking Staten Island to New Jersey should be considered with the same urgency as Mayor Bill de Blasio's $2.5 billion streetcar connecting Brooklyn and Queens, supporters say.

Council members Steven Matteo, Joe Borelli and Debi Rose joined Staten Island Borough President James Oddo to send a letter to the mayor on Tuesday asking him to add $5 to $7 million to the budget to study the West Shore Light Rail.

"We firmly believe government should be in the business of investing in transportation infrastructure and providing inexpensive, efficient mass transit with priorities going to communities that have experienced strong growth and lack such infrastructure," the officials wrote.

"That is why it's so puzzling that your plans for 'transportation equity' have left out the borough with the fastest population growth in the previous decade and the fewest public transportation options."

The West Shore Light Rail, first proposed by the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation in 2004, would connect Richmond Valley to Elm Park and link up to light rail lines in New Jersey, according to the SIEDC.

The light rails' Alternative Analysis study, which delves deep into the nuts-and-bolts of the project, is one of two evaluations needed before the project can get off the ground, with the other being the Environmental Impact Statement, the SIEDC previously said.

In their letter, the officials argued the project should move forward because it could potentially take thousands of cars off the road and ease the commutes of some Staten Islanders, who have one of the longest daily commutes in the country.

"You have stated repeatedly that we must “reduce our reliance on cars," officials wrote.

"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 mayor's office said that the proposed Brooklyn-Queens Connector (BQX) line could offer a guide on how to make light rail work across the city.

De Blasio's representatives pointed to his increasing of the road repaving budget, adding 30-minute overnight ferry service and his support of the MTA's study of the North Shore Bus Rapid Transit system as ways of improving the transportation woes of Staten Islanders.

A spokeswoman for the mayor said the West Shore Light Rail line has plenty of challenges and does not have many of the advantages that would make light rail work in the city.

Staten Island elected officials fumed after de Blasio announced his support earlier this month of funding of the BQX line, which would eliminate hundreds of parking spaces along its route.

Oddo tweeted after the news that he asked for a streetcar in the North Shore of the borough in 2014, but the plan was rejected by the Department of Transportation.