Could rail freight make a comeback in the Brooklyn economy?

Exploring the borough's infrastructure.

65th St. Rail Yard. Image from NYCEDC.
As the city’s streets become increasingly congested, rail freight could become and increasingly competitive alternative for the local economy, a new report from the Metropolitan Rail Freight Council notes.

Trucks currently transport about 91 percent of all freight in the New York area, but as rising property prices and residential development seeps further into industrial neighborhoods such as East Williamsburg, Bushwick and elsewhere, could that remain tenable?

“Investing in rail freight infrastructure can improve the quality of life for people living in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region, and the nation as a whole,” says the report, titled Metropolitan Rail Freight Council Action Plan. “Rail freight creates competitively priced goods through fuel savings and contributes to cleaner air and safer streets by reducing the number of trucks on our roadways.”

Brooklyn has only one heavy rail line in it, the New York and Atlantic Railroad, which is owned by the Anacostia and Pacific Company, and serves Brooklyn, Queens and Long Island. It connects with CSX’s massive Eastern U.S. network in Queens.

Brooklyn’s main rail yard, the 65th St. Rail Yard, is adjacent to the Brooklyn Army Terminal, in Sunset Park. That complex, which has docks, piers, warehouses, and now offices, was the largest military supply base in the country when it was built in 1919. More than 3 million soldiers (including my grandfather) traveled through the terminal.

Some good Brooklyn freight rail facts:

All these condos need to get their materials from somewhere:

  • “Shipments of lumber and wood products have increased significantly due to strong growth in the housing and construction industries. Much of the lumber and wood products that arrive in the region travel from New Jersey across New York Harbor using the NYNJR, LLC’s car float to the 65th Street Rail Yard, located in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.”

Projects in progress:

  • “Construct a second lead track to the 65th Street Rail Yard, providing redundancy to current NYNJR operations. It would allow for increased throughput and operational flexibility. NYSDOT PFRAP Grant awarded to NYNJR in February 2017. Project Cost: $1.8 million. Grant Award: $1.6 million.”

Projects planned in Brooklyn:

  • “Modernize the region’s infrastructure to accommodate double stack intermodal rail freight and auto carriers to increase capacity in the network.”
Read the full report
Series: Brooklyn

Knowledge is power!

Subscribe for free today and stay up to date with news and tips you need to grow your career and connect with our vibrant tech community.

Technically Media