Economy / Transportation

A Metro-North stop in Hunts Point?

Photo courtesy of the MTA

An artist’s rendering of Metro-North’s proposed new station stop on Hunts Point Avenue.

MTA’s proposal for new route excites local commuters

For years, Hunts Point residents have heard the sound of Amtrak trains speeding past without stopping, en route to northern destinations.

Now, Metro-North is considering adding a line with a stop in Hunts Point, using those same tracks.

Officials from Metro-North’s parent company, the Metropolitan Transit Authority, addressed some 100 residents at the Casita Maria building on Simpson Street on October 2, to announce their proposal to expand commuter train service to Hunts Point and three other stops in the Bronx. The new line would connect the four Bronx stations to Westchester County, Connecticut and Manhattan. Hunts Point residents would be able to hop on a train and arrive at Penn Station in 18 minutes, and Stamford, Ct. in 40 minutes, the MTA says.

Parkchester, Morris Park and Co-Op City are the other three Bronx stops that would be serviced, MTA officials have announced.

Implementation of the new line would cost $500 million for new stations and electric trains, the agency estimates. New platforms, an elevator and a pedestrian overpass would be constructed at the Hunts Point station, but there would be no parking lot.

The new station would be located on Hunts Point Avenue, one block east of the Bruckner Expressway.

Some residents and Community Board 2 members who attended the meeting expressed excitement about the potential for easier access to northern destinations. Four of five residents do not own a car, leaving long, roundabout trips on commuter buses as the only way of getting to points north of the city.

“People won’t say, ‘Oh, I can’t do that, that’s in Connecticut,’” said Community Board 2 member and CEO of The Point CDC, Maria Torres.

The new line would shine a needed spotlight on the neighborhood, she added, saying the state’s Department of Transportation “Will pay more attention to us now. If they’re going to build a station, they’re going to make sure it doesn’t fail, and make sure it looks good.”

Increasingly, Bronxites are traveling north to Westchester and Connecticut rather than south to Manhattan. Two of every three Metro-North boardings in the Bronx are outbound trips to northern suburbs, the agency reports, as illustrated by the bustle at its Fordham station, one of the system’s busiest.

Advocates of the new line say Bronx residents would enjoy easier access to job opportunities in restaurants, hotels, hospitals, and offices in Connecticut cities like Stamford and Greenwich, where many businesses have relocated in the past decade.

While turnout for the meeting failed to match the 800 residents who showed up to support the proposal at a similar meeting in Co-Op City, most residents enthusiastically supported the idea.

“I love it,” said Paula Fields. “I’d pay the extra money to get to the city quick and go shopping.”

While the cost of traveling to Manhattan would be $7.50 during peak hours and $5.75 for off-peak travel, more than double that of a standard subway ride, there would be no stops between Hunts Point and Penn Station. The fare to northern destinations would be $5, and discounts would be available for seniors, children and disabled riders.

“If it creates less stress, and can get people to places quicker, then people will use it,” said Dr. Ian Amritt, chairman of Community Board 2.

But there’s a catch. Implementation of the new route will depend on the MTA completing its projected linking of the Long Island Railroad to Grand Central Terminal by 2019. That move, which calls for transferring about half of Penn Station’s current trains to Grand Central, would free up the space Metro-North officials say they need to create the new line.

Although there is no formal agreement in place yet addressing track-sharing with Amtrak, MTA officials are confident the two transit agencies will come to an arrangement soon.

Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. urged residents at the meeting to persuade their elected officials to support the project through letter-writing campaigns. The required funds are in high demand, Diaz warned, and there will be competition with other MTA projects, such as the Long Island Railroad.

“This is something we need, and something we deserve,” he said.

Amritt echoed Diaz’s calls for public support for the project.

“A community revolves around two things: opportunity and transportation,” he said. “This is both.”

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