Nov. 11, 2015 By Laura A. Shepard
The MTA is giving Elmhurst its LIRR stop back.
The station, which was closed and demolished in 1985, will be rebuilt and will include two new platforms, along with staircases, platform railings, platform shelters, ticket vending machines, communication and security systems, lighting and site improvements.
The station will return to it previous Broadway/Cornish Ave. location and will be fully compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, with components such as ramps and elevators.
The MTA has allocated $30.5 million toward its planning and design from its 2015-2019 Capital Program. The funding to construct the station will be announced in the following Capital Program, which will be released in 2019, MTA spokesperson Meredith Daniels said.
Although operational plans are still in flux, Daniels said that theoretically when the LIRR East Side Access tunnels open, trains that stop at Elmhurst may go to both Penn Station and Grand Central Terminal. Travel time to Penn Station is about 11 minutes.
Jordan Hare, a transportation analyst, studied the new station proposal several years ago, while he had a fellowship at OpenPlan, a group that studies city and transportation planning.
He noted that cities around the country are examining in-fill railway development — adding new stations between existing ones rather than elongating train lines — as ways to expand their networks. Washington D.C. and Boston have done so and even Metro North Railroad is planning to add four stations in the Bronx.
“It’s a great thing for Queens and the city,” Hare said. “I’m very pleased to see this project make its way through. It’s a great addition to a great neighborhood.”
He added that in a sense the neighborhood has come full circle, as Elmhurst, which was then called Newtown, developed around the railroad in the first place. The Flushing Railroad opened the first depot in the area around 1855.
The Newtown Civic Association is pushing for the new station to retain its historic name as “Newtown-Elmhurst.”
Robert Valdes-Clausell, an officer in the Newtown Civic Association and a strong proponent of the new railroad station, said that the old station wasn’t shuttered for lack of ridership. Old schedules from the 80s show that the trains only stopped at Elmhurst before 6 a.m. and after 9 a.m., inconvenient times for the average workday commuter.
The MTA has also allocated $76.5 million in its Capital Plan toward a station for Sunnyside. However, “the station coincides with East Side Access and is quite a ways off as it won’t be finished until after East Access is completed,” Daniels said.
East Side Access is planned to open for service in 2022, according to the MTA website.
The station would be located at Queens Boulevard, with an entrance envisioned at the west side of the Queens Boulevard bridge, near the Skillman Avenue end. Selected trains bound to and from Penn would stop there, as well as trains to and from Hunters Point Avenue and Long Island City.
“Both of these projects have received strong community support and have ridership merit,” Daniels said.
The MTA’s capital plan states that ridership today is at an all-time high; there were 8.7 million LIRR riders in 2013. The spike in ridership is also attributed to off-peak and reverse commuters, in addition to the “9-to-5” crowd.
The LIRR will receive $3.1 billion of the total $32 billion Capital Plan. The MTA currently has about $16.9 billion available and plans to cover the $15.2 billion funding gap in the future.