When Governor Kathy Hochul revived a nearly 30-year old transit idea to use freight tracks running from southern Brooklyn through Queens for a new passenger rail line, she did not include the Bronx, which had been part of a proposal originally laid out by the Regional Plan Association. 

Now, some Bronx residents are pushing back, saying they would also like a quick connection to the other boroughs. 

A direct route to Queens, other than the bus, would be a boost to the economy, according to Maria Torres, president of The Point — a Bronx-based community development corporation.

“It's a little unfortunate that that was taken out,” she said. “There's economic opportunities. There's jobs.”

The Inter-Borough Express route is still in the environmental review phase, but during her State of the State address, Hochul outlined a 14-mile rail route that begins in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, and terminates in Astoria, Queens. The line would go through neighborhoods including Sunset Park, Borough Park, Kensington, Midwood, Flatbush, Flatlands, New Lots, Brownsville, East New York, Bushwick, Ridgewood, Middle Village, Maspeth, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

The route of the InterBorough Express in Brooklyn and Queens

The Inter-Borough Express

The Inter-Borough Express

The governor’s office also projected the Inter-Borough Express would bring an additional 41,000 people and 15,000 jobs over the next 30 years to those communities, in addition to cutting end-to-end commute times down to roughly 40 minutes.

However, the line falls short of the original Triboro proposal, conceived by the Regional Plan Association proposed in 1996, which had the route continue for 10 miles, from Queens into the Bronx, and up the east side to Co-Op City. 

The Bronx repeatedly rates as the least healthy county in New York state, coming in dead last year over year — a point made by Mychal Johnson, co-founder of the group South Bronx Unite. With highways, heavy trucks and power plants scattered throughout the borough, more meaningful mass transit options could go a long way toward getting people out of cars.

“We’ve got some of the worst public transportation in the city,” he said. “This project excluding — or not including — the Bronx or the South Bronx, we feel is disrespectful.” 

He added, “It is not creating a different way of looking at social infrastructure and the social racism that has taken place here for way too long.”

State Senator Jessica Ramos is also calling on Governor Hochul to extend the Inter-Borough Express to the Bronx, and to add more stops in Queens as well, advocating for a longer rail proposal called "The Triboro."

“Queens’ population grew by 8% in the last decade, second only to Brooklyn’s boom. While Midtown Manhattan offices sit mostly empty this season, our neighborhoods are practically bursting at the seams,” Ramos wrote in a New York Daily News op-Ed this week. “Because of this, Hochul has been accused of reducing the original plan rather than introducing a revolutionary new one. By delivering the longer Triboro, rather than the biborough Interborough Express, she can show New Yorkers in three boroughs what an effective government can deliver”

The route of the Triboro express, through Brooklyn, Queens, and Bronx

The Triboro route

The Triboro route
Regional Plan Association

Ramos argues that the Hell Gate Line, an existing 10 miles of Amtrak tracks the MTA will use for its Penn Station Access project — four new Metro-North stations in the Bronx —could also be used to connect to Hochul’s Inter-Borough Express. But the Hell’s Gate Bridge, which spans the East River, is already congested and crowded with Amtrak trains, freight traffic, and those future Metro-North trains running between Penn Station and Co-op City. 

Amtrak, which owns the Hell Gate Line tracks, declined to comment specifically on how an additional passenger train line could operate from Queens to the Bronx, but noted it would require a separate engineering and design review process.

“The segment north of Jackson Heights involves the same route used for Metro-North Penn Station Access, a top-priority project for the Governor, for the MTA and for the Bronx elected delegation that will create four new Metro-North stations in the East Bronx with service to Manhattan and Westchester and Connecticut,” MTA spokesperson Aaron Donovan wrote in a statement. “The route planning for the Interborough Express will focus initial attention on the segment of the line that can be upgraded without interfering with the Metro-North Bronx expansion.”

Governor Hochul’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

RPA President Tom Wright also said he thinks Bronx residents will still be served well from the four new Metro-North stops, even if they run into Manhattan, and not into Queens and Brooklyn. That project has a contractor; construction hasn’t begun yet but it is expected to be completed by 2027.

“We don't want to delay the Penn Access Project. That needs to move ahead and it makes the most sense to be building the Brooklyn-Queens portion of this,” Wright said. “Now, I think ultimately we'd love to see whether there are synergies between these projects, whether they could be connected with a transfer or other things like that. But all of that is kind of off in the future. And it makes enormous sense to move ahead with the Interborough proposal that the governor announced.”