STATEN ISLAND — The MTA will fund a $5 million study on a light rail system that would connect Staten Island to New Jersey.
State lawmakers helped get the MTA to use funding from its budget on evaluations for the West Shore Light Rail system, first proposed more than a decade ago to connect Richmond Valley to Elm Park and link with light rail connections in New Jersey.
"All of us at SIEDC are extremely thankful to Assemblyman Michael Cusick and Senator Andrew Lanza for this incredible achievement," said Cesar J. Claro, president and CEO of the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC), which first pitched the plan in 2004.
"We see the West Shore Light Rail as the centerpiece of continued economic growth for the borough over the next 20 years."
The MTA committed to fund the light rails' Alternative Analysis study, which would delve deep into the nuts and bolts of the project, along with a study on reactivating the Rockaway Beach Rail Line.
"There has been considerable interest among several communities and elected officials on possible opportunities involving the Rockaway Beach and West Shore (SI) rail corridors," a spokesman for the MTA said.
"We have committed to study and assess transportation options and issues along both corridors and submit reports no later than June, 30 2017."
The agency didn't have a cost for the proposal, but the SIEDC previously estimated it would cost $5 million.
In 2014, the SIEDC re-started its campaign for the light rail with a petition asking the state to fund the study, in light of planned developments heading to the west side of the borough.
Aside from the Alternative Analysis study, the city would also need to do an Environmental Impact Statement to get the project moving forward, the SIEDC said.
After the city announced plans for a $2.5 billion streetcar connecting Brooklyn and Queens, Staten Island elected officials wrote a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio asking him to consider the plan with the same urgency.
"You have stated repeatedly that we must “reduce our reliance on cars," Borough President James Oddo and Council members Debi Rose, Steven Matteo and Joe Borelli wrote in the letter.
"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."